Jose Salinas-Enriquez (Courtesy/FBI Indianapolis)
Since the beginning of this investigation, additional defendants have been arrested and charged in criminal complaints with federal immigration-related crimes.
MS-13, formally La Mara Salvatrucha, is a multi-national criminal organization composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The organization's leadership is based in El Salvador, where many of the gang's high-ranking members are imprisoned.
In 2012, the United States government designated MS-13 as a "transnational criminal organization." It is the first and only street gang to receive that designation. MS-13 has become one of the largest and most violent criminal organizations in the United States, with more than 10,000 members and associates operating in at least 40 states, including Ohio.
In Ohio and elsewhere in the United States, MS-13 is organized into "cliques," which are smaller groups of MS-13 members and associates acting under the larger mantle of the organization and operating in a specific region, city or part of a city. Cliques are grouped into larger "programs," and the Columbus, Ohio clique of MS-13 is part of the East Coast Program.
Cliques raise money through various forms of criminal activity, including extortion and narcotics trafficking, in addition to paying regular dues at clique meetings, and a portion of that money is wired to leadership in El Salvador. Gang leaders use this money to purchase weapons and cell phones and to provide clothing, legal assistance and other forms of aid to MS-13 members who are incarcerated and to support the families of MS-13 members who have been killed.
Violence is a central tenet of MS-13. The organization's motto, "mata, viola, controla," means kill, rape, control. Historically, MS-13 members and associates have committed murders and other violent acts using machetes, knives and similar bladed weapons in order to intimidate and instill fear in others.
THE COLUMBUS CASE
In July 2017, a federal grand jury charged 10 individuals with conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
In December 2017, a superseding indictment charged four additional defendants and added charges of cocaine and marijuana distribution, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, obstruction of justice, and illegal re-entry into the United States. Today's second superseding indictment alleges the defendants have engaged in a racketeering conspiracy since approximately 2006 in the Southern District of Ohio and elsewhere.
The racketeering activity involves multiple acts of murder, extortion, drug trafficking, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and witness intimidation.
The second superseding indictment alleges that the defendants committed a host of overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy, including:
1) the December 2006 murder of Jose Mendez, a suspected confidential informant, in Perry County;
2) the November 2008 murder of Ramon Ramos on Lockbourne Road in Columbus;
3) the mid-2015 murder of Carlos Serrano-Ramos, a suspected rival gang member, near Innis Road in Columbus;
4) the November 2015 murder of Wilson Villeda near Innis Road in Columbus;
5) the December 2016 murder of Salvador Martinez-Diaz, a suspected rival gang member, on Melroy Avenue in Columbus.
Other criminal activity detailed in the newest indictment includes burning a victim's car when the victim refused to be extorted for money, conspiring to murder at least one potential witness, threatening the lives of a Transnational Anti-Gang Unit officer and the officer's family in El Salvador, threatening to kill an individual's family if he cooperated with law enforcement, possessing multiple firearms and ammunition, possessing and distributing cocaine and marijuana, and destroying evidence.
The crimes charged in this case and each crime's potential maximum sentence include:
If you are a victim of the alleged crimes, or have additional information about MS-13, please call the FBI hotline at 614-849-1765. Callers can remain anonymous.