Federal Court

Federal Court

UPDATE – Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar sentenced Juan Carlos Sandoval-Rodriguez, a/k/a “Picaro,” “El Pastor,” and “Gasper,” age 24, of Annapolis, Maryland, to life in federal prison for a racketeering conspiracy, racketeering, attempted murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit murder in aid or racketeering, as well as related violent crimes in aid of racketeering, including three murders, connected to his participation in La Mara Salvatrucha, a transnational criminal enterprise also known as MS-13.

On October 31, 2019, after a nine-day trial, a federal jury convicted Sandoval-Rodriguez of murder in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, in connection with a murder that occurred on March 11, 2016.

On January 24, 2022, after a three-month trial, a federal jury convicted Sandoval-Rodriguez of racketeering charges, along with co-defendants Jose Joya Parada, a/k/a “Calmado,” age 21; Oscar Armando Sorto Romero, a/k/a “Lobo,” age 23; and Milton Portillo Rodriguez, a/k/a “Little Gangster,” a/k/a “Seco,” age 26.  Sandoval-Rodriguez and Portillo-Rodriguez were also convicted of multiple counts of murder in aid of racketeering.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting Special Agent in Charge Selwyn Smith of Homeland Security Investigations, Baltimore Office; Special Agent in Charge Toni M. Crosby of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division; Chief Jason Lando of the Frederick City Police Department; Frederick County Sheriff Charles A. “Chuck” Jenkins; Frederick County State’s Attorney J. Charles Smith, III; Chief Amal E. Awad of the Anne Arundel County Police Department; Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess; Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy; Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador and other central American countries.  Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Frederick County, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County, Maryland.  Sandoval Rodriguez, Portillo Rodriguez, and Joya Parada were members of the Fulton Locos Salvatruchas (“FLS”) clique.  Co-defendant Oscar Sorto Romero was part of the Parque Vista Locos Salvatruchas (“PVLS”) clique.

At all times of this conspiracy, members of MS-13 were expected to protect the name, reputation, and status of the gang from rival gang members and other persons.  To protect the gang and to enhance its reputation, MS-13 members were expected to use any means necessary to force respect from those who showed disrespect, including acts of intimidation and violence.  MS-13 had mottos consistent with its rules, beliefs, expectations, and reputation, including “mata, viola, controla,” which translates as, “kill, rape, control,” and “ver, oir y callar,” which means, “see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing.”  One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, often referred to as “chavalas,” whenever possible.

MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence both to maintain membership and discipline within the gang, as well as against rival gang members.  Participation in criminal activity by a member, particularly in violent acts directed at rival gangs or as directed by gang leadership, increase the respect accorded to that member, resulting in that member maintaining or increasing his position in the gang, and opens the door to promotion to a leadership position.

The evidence at both trials established that between 2015 and 2017, Sandoval-Rodriguez and his co-defendants engaged in a pattern of racketeering, drug trafficking, extortion, murder, and brutal acts of violence against suspected rivals of the gang in an effort to increase MS-13’s power in the Frederick County, Montgomery County, and Anne Arundel County areas of Maryland.

Evidence presented at the 2019 trial established that Sandoval-Rodriguez participated in the murder of a suspected rival gang member on March 11, 2016.  During this murder, Sandoval Rodriguez lured the victim to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, Maryland, with the intention of killing him.  Surveillance video from a nearby laundromat captured Sandoval-Rodriguez and the victim walking toward Quiet Waters Park on the evening of the murder.  Once the victim arrived at the park, members of the gang struck him in the head with a branch or stick, and the assailants, including Sandoval-Rodriguez, repeatedly stabbed the victim with a knife, killing him.  While Sandoval-Rodriguez and other members of the gang committed the murder, other MS-13 members and associates stood watch outside the park to ensure no one entered or left the park, and to watch for police, so that the gang could complete the murder.  After the victim was killed, MS-13 members and associates buried him in a shallow grave inside the park, but Sandoval-Rodriguez did not bury the body because of the cut on his finger and fear that he would leave evidence at the scene. The body was not recovered until Aug. 28, 2017, when it was exhumed by law enforcement. After his arrest, Sandoval-Rodriguez’s writings about the murder as well as additional MS-13 paraphernalia was recovered among his personal belongings in jail. Sandoval-Rodriguez participated in the murder to raise his status in the gang and to assert the authority of MS-13 in Annapolis.

Trial evidence related to Sandoval-Rodriguez at his second trial focused on his participation in several murders, including a 17-year-old victim., who was believed to be a rival gang member.  Specifically, the evidence showed that on March 31, 2017, the gang lured a 17-year-old from Annapolis to Wheaton Regional Park, where they stabbed him over 100 times, dismembered him, removed his heart, and buried him in a clandestine grave.  Evidence was presented that Sandoval-Rodriguez and Portillo Rodriguez lured the victim out and along with other MS-13 members and associates, brought him from Annapolis to Wheaton Regional Park.  Sandoval-Rodriguez, Portillo Rodriguez, and Joya Parada participated in the murder by stabbing, cutting, and dismembering the victim and Joya Parada also helped to dig the victim’s grave.

Trial evidence also demonstrated that Sandoval-Rodriguez participated in a murder that occurred on June 24, 2017. In that murder, the gang used a female associate to lure a 21-year-old woman into a car and then took her to a wooded area in Crownsville, where she was killed, her body was dismembered, and she was buried in a clandestine grave. Co-defendant Portillo-Rodriguez aided in the planning of the murder and helped lure the victim into a car. Sandoval-Rodriguez traveled to the wooded area earlier in the day to dig a hole for the victim’s grave. MS-13 members caused the victim to lose consciousness, removed her clothing, and decapitated the victim with a machete. Sandoval-Rodriguez and Portillo-Rodriguez participated in the murder by stabbing and slashing the victim’s body with a machete, dismembering the body, and burying the body in a wooded area. As a result of their participation in the murder, Sandoval-Rodriguez, Portillo-Rodriguez, and other gang members were promoted within MS-13.

More than 30 MS-13 gang members and associates have been convicted in these cases.

Co-defendants from Sandoval-Rodriguez’s first case, Marlon Cruz-Flores, age 25; Fermin Gomez-Jimenez, age 23; Moises Alexis Reyes-Canales; and Manuel Martinez-Aguilar, aka El Lunatic, aka Zomb, age 22, all of Annapolis, previously pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and a firearms offense. Both Gomez-Jimenez and Cruz-Flores were sentenced to 38 years in prison, Reyes-Canales was sentenced to 35 years in prison, and Martinez-Aguilar was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

On April 20, 2022, Chief Judge Bredar sentenced Joya Parada to 50 years in federal prison, for a racketeering conspiracy, racketeering, and related violent crimes in aid of racketeering.  Portillo Rodriguez and Sorto Romero were each sentenced to life in federal prison, for a racketeering conspiracy and for racketeering, as well as related violent crimes in aid of racketeering, including multiple murders.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime.  Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.  As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement.  The FBI and Homeland Security Investigations both have nationwide tiplines that you can call to report what you know.  You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or you can call HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. commended the FBI; HSI; ATF, the Frederick Police Department; the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office; the Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Prince George’s County Police Departments; and the Anne Arundel, Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George’s County State’s Attorneys for their work in these investigations, and the Baltimore County Police Department for its assistance.  Mr. Barron and Assistant Attorney General Polite thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Stendig and Trial Attorney Matthew Hoff of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who handled the first trial.  Mr. Barron also thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth S. Clark, Zachary Stendig, and Anatoly Smolkin, who handled the second trial.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/project-safe-neighborhoods-psnexile and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.

UPDATE: – U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar sentenced Moises Alexis Reyes-Canales, a/k/a “Sicopita”, age 23, of Annapolis, to 35 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise and to using, carrying, and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, in connection with his MS-13 gang activities, including a murder and two attempted murders.

According to his plea agreement and other court documents, since about March 11, 2016, Reyes-Canales was a member and associate of MS-13, and participated in a racketeering conspiracy that included assaults, murder, attempted murder, robbery, and drug trafficking.  Specifically, Reyes-Canales admitted that he participated in the murder of a suspected rival gang member, and conspired and attempted to murder two victims in Annapolis.  In addition, between January 2016 and February 2017, Reyes-Canales and other MS-13 members/associates sold marijuana to raise funds for the gang. The drug proceeds were used for, among other purposes, the purchase of more narcotics, weapons, and to send to MS-13 members and associates in other states and in El Salvador.

The sentence was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge James Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore Office; Special Agent in Charge Timothy Jones of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division; Chief Amal Awad of the Anne Arundel County Police Department; Chief Edward Jackson of the Annapolis Police Department; and State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess of the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Office.

“Reyes-Canales is a violent gang member who killed and seriously injured multiple victims, and in the process brought horror and despair to the victims and their families as well as chaos and fear to communities in Annapolis. The United States Attorney’s Office would like to thank community members and our international and local law enforcement partners who assisted in this investigation,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner. “This sentence of 35 years in federal prison should serve as a warning to those who are in MS-13 and are considering joining the gang that we will be relentless in prosecuting anyone who is involved in violence.”

“Due to the diligent work of our law enforcement partners and the department prosecutors in this case, Reyes-Canales and his MS-13 co-defendants will no longer be able to victimize the Annapolis community. Reyes-Canales and his co-defendants murdered one victim and attempted to murder two others, causing irreparable harm to the victims and their families,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “We will never stop pursuing those MS-13 gang members who intimidate and harm our communities.”

As part of the racketeering conspiracy, Reyes-Canales admitted that on March 11, 2016, he and other MS-13 members and associates planned and agreed to murder Victim 1, whom the gang suspected of being a rival gang member. Prior to the murder, Reyes-Canales received authorization to commit the murder from MS-13 leadership.  Juan Carlos Sandoval-Rodriguez and another MS-13 member/associate lured Victim 1 to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, Maryland, and once Victim 1 arrived at the park, members of the gang struck Victim 1 in the head with a branch or stick.  Reyes-Canales, co-defendants Marlon Cruz-Flores, Fermin Gomez-Jimenez, and other members and associates of MS-13, then stabbed Victim 1 repeatedly, killing him.  Reyes-Canales directed everyone during the murder.  While Reyes-Canales and other members of the gang stabbed Victim 1, Co-conspirator 1 and other MS-13 members/associates stood watch outside of the park to ensure no one entered or left the park, and to watch for police presence, so that the gang could complete the murder of Victim 1.  During this time, Co-conspirator 1 communicated by phone and through text messages with Reyes-Canales and Cruz-Flores inside the park, to let them know no one entered the park and they could complete the murder.  After Victim 1 was killed, Gomez-Jimenez left the park to stand watch, so that other MS-13 associates could enter the park help bury Victim 1 in a shallow grave inside the park, at the direction of Reyes-Canales.  Law enforcement did not locate Victim 1’s body until August 28, 2017, when it was exhumed by law enforcement.

As detailed in their plea agreements, on October 23, 2016, Reyes-Canales, Gomez-Jimenez, and other members and associates of the MS-13 Hempstead clique in Annapolis, devised a plan to murder Victim 2, an unlicensed taxi driver.  Reyes-Canales, Gomez-Jimenez, Cruz-Flores, co-defendant Manuel Martinez-Aguilar, and other members and associates of MS-13, met at Quiet Waters Park to discuss the plan to murder Victim 2.  At the meeting, each member of the conspiracy was assigned a task to complete the murder and dispose of the evidence.  The group planned to use machetes, knives, and guns to kill the victim.  Reyes-Canales and Cruz-Flores each had a firearm and all the members of the conspiracy were aware that guns would be used in the murder.

A co-conspirator called Victim 2 using another member’s cell phone to arrange for an unlicensed taxi ride.  Victim 2 arrived with another passenger, Victim 3.  Cruz-Flores asked Victim 2 to drive to the area of the 700 block of Annapolis Neck Road in Annapolis.  When they arrived, Reyes-Canales approached the vehicle and pointed a gun at the victims and Cruz-Flores also produced a gun and pointed it at the victims.  Victim 3 attempted to run away and Cruz-Flores shot Victim 3 in the leg, while another MS-13 member repeatedly attacked Victim 3 with a machete.  Victim 2 also tried to run. Reyes-Canales attempted to shoot Victim 2, but his gun failed to discharge.  Co-defendant Martinez-Aguilar and another MS-13 member took Victim 2’s vehicle and attempted unsuccessfully to run him over with the car.  Reyes-Canales, Gomez-Jimenez, and other conspirators chased Victim 2 and Gomez-Jimenez repeatedly stabbed Victim 2 with a knife.  The conspirators fled when they heard police sirens.  A short time later, police arrested Gomez-Jimenez nearby with Victim 2’s blood on his hands and clothes.  A surveillance camera in the area captured Gomez-Jimenez assaulting Victim 2 and the attempt to run over Victim 2 with Victim 2’s vehicle.  DNA subsequently confirmed that the blood on Gomez-Jimenez’ hands matched Victim 2’s blood.  Both victims were transported to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center with life threatening injuries.  Both victims survived but have permanent injuries as a result of the attack.

Co-defendants Marlon Cruz-Flores, age 25, and Manuel Martinez-Aguilar, a/k/a “El Lunatic” and “Zomb,” age 22, both of Annapolis, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy and gun charge.  Cruz-Flores was sentenced to 38 years in federal prison and Martinez-Aguilar was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison.  Co-defendant Fermin Gomez-Jimenez, age 23, of Annapolis, Maryland pleaded guilty to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise and to using, carrying, and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, and David Diaz-Alvarado, age 20, also of Annapolis, pleaded guilty to murder in aid of racketeering in connection with his MS-13 gang activities.  Co-defendant, Juan Carlos Sandoval-Rodriguez, age 23, of Annapolis was convicted on October 31, 2019, of murder in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering after a nine-day jury trial for the murder of Victim 1.  His sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 10, 2011 at 10 a.m. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.  All of the defendants remain detained.

Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement.  The FBI and Homeland Security Investigations both have nationwide tiplines that you can call to report what you know.  You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or you can call HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner and commended HSI, the ATF, the Anne Arundel County Police Department, the Annapolis Police Department, and the Anne Arundel State’s Attorney Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution.  Mr. Lenzner and Mr. Polite thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Stendig, and Trial Attorneys Matthew Hoff and Samantha Mildenberg Loiero of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who prosecuted the case.

UPDATE: – Chief U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar sentenced Fermin Gomez-Jimenez, age 23, of Annapolis, Maryland, to 38 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for his role in a conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise and for using, carrying, and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, in connection with his MS-13 gang activities.

The sentence was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner; Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge James Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore Office; Special Agent in Charge Timothy Jones of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division; Chief Amal Awad of the Anne Arundel Police Department; Chief Edward Jackson of the Annapolis Police Department; and State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess of the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Office.

“The violence perpetrated by Gomez-Jimenez and his fellow MS-13 members was brutal and tragic and is totally unacceptable.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland and our federal, local and state partners are working together to remove these violent gang members and to keeping our communities safe from the deadly threat of MS-13,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner.  “We continue to work with our counterparts here and abroad to bring to justice these transnational gangs.  The 38-year sentence for this defendant should serve as a reminder to the community that we will not relent in our pursuit of justice.”

“Gang-related violence and criminal activity present an ongoing challenge for law enforcement everywhere. HSI’s efforts to dismantle gangs are much more effective in areas where partnership with local law enforcement is strongest,” said James Mancuso, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Baltimore field office. “This significant sentence is the result of the hard work and collaboration between federal and local partners to bring members of MS-13 to account.”

According to his plea agreement and other court documents, from about 2015 through 2017, Gomez-Jimenez was a member and associate of the Hempstead clique of MS-13, and participated in a racketeering conspiracy that included assaults, murder, attempted murder, robbery, and drug trafficking.  Specifically, Gomez-Jimenez admitted that he participated in the murder of a suspected rival gang member, and conspired and attempted to murder two victims in Annapolis.  In addition, between January 2016 and February 2017, Gomez-Jimenez and other MS-13 members/associates sold marijuana to raise funds for the gang. The drug proceeds were used for, among other purposes, the purchase of more narcotics, weapons, and to send to MS-13 members and associates in other states and in El Salvador.

As part of the racketeering conspiracy, Gomez-Jimenez admitted that on March 11, 2016, he and other MS-13 members and associates planned and agreed to murder Victim 1, whom the gang suspected of being a rival gang member.  Co-conspirator 1 and another MS-13 associate lured Victim 1 to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, Maryland, and once Victim 1 arrived at the park, members of the gang struck Victim-1 in the head with a branch or stick.  Gomez-Jimenez, using a knife borrowed from a co-conspirator, along with co-defendants Moises Reyes-Canales, Marlon Cruz-Flores, and other members and associates of MS-13, then stabbed Victim 1 repeatedly, killing him.  While Gomez-Jimenez and other members of the gang stabbed Victim 1, Co-conspirator 1 and other MS-13 members/associates stood watch outside of the park to ensure no one entered or left the park, and to watch for police presence, so that the gang could complete the murder of Victim 1.  During this time, Co-conspirator 1 communicated by phone and through text messages with Cruz-Flores and Reyes-Canales inside the park, to let them know no one entered the park and they could complete the murder.  After Victim 1 was killed, Gomez-Jimenez left the park to stand watch, so that other MS-13 associates could enter the park help bury Victim 1 in a shallow grave inside the park.  Law enforcement did not locate Victim 1’s body until August 28, 2017, when it was exhumed by law enforcement.

As detailed in his plea agreement, on October 23, 2016, Gomez-Jimenez along with other members and associates of the MS-13 Hempstead clique in Annapolis, devised a plan to murder Victim 2, an unlicensed taxi driver.  Gomez-Jimenez, Reyes-Canales, Cruz-Flores, Manuel Martinez-Aguilar, and other members and associates of MS-13, met at Quiet Waters Park to discuss the plan to murder Victim 2.  At the meeting, each member of the conspiracy was assigned a task to complete the murder and dispose of the evidence.  The group planned to use machetes, knives, and guns to kill the victim.  Cruz-Flores and another Reyes-Canales each had a firearm and all the members of the conspiracy were aware that guns would be used in the murder.

A co-conspirator called Victim 2 using another member’s cell phone to arrange for an unlicensed taxi ride.  Victim 2 arrived with another passenger, Victim 3.  Cruz-Flores asked Victim 2 to drive to the area of the 700 block of Annapolis Neck Road in Annapolis.  When they arrived, Reyes-Canales approached the vehicle and pointed a gun at the victims and Cruz-Flores also produced a gun and pointed it at the victims.  Victim 3 attempted to run away and Cruz-Flores shot Victim 3 in the leg, while another MS-13 member repeatedly attacked Victim 3 with a machete.  Victim 2 also tried to run.  Co-defendant Martinez-Aguilar and another MS-13 member took Victim 2’s vehicle and attempted unsuccessfully to run him over with the car.  Co-conspirators chased Victim 2 and Gomez-Jimenez repeatedly stabbed Victim 2 with a knife.  The conspirators fled when they heard police sirens.  A short time later, police arrested Gomez-Jimenez nearby with Victim 2’s blood on his hands and clothes.  A surveillance camera in the area captured Gomez-Jimenez assaulting Victim 2 and the attempt to run over Victim 2 with Victim 2’s vehicle.  DNA subsequently confirmed that the blood on Gomez-Jimenez’ hands matched Victim 2’s blood.  Both victims were transported to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center with life threatening injuries.  Both victims survived but have permanent injuries as a result of the attack.

Co-defendants Marlon Cruz-Flores, age 25, Reyes-Canales, age 23, and Manuel Martinez-Aguilar, a/k/a “El Lunatic” and “Zomb,” age 21, all of Annapolis, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy and gun charge.  Cruz-Flores was sentenced to 38 years in federal prison and Martinez-Aguilar was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison.  Sentencing for Reyes-Canales is set for September 17, 2021.  Co-defendant David Diaz-Alvarado, age 20, also of Annapolis, pleaded guilty to murder in aid of racketeering in connection with his MS-13 gang activities.  A fourth co-defendant, Juan Carlos Sandoval-Rodriguez, age 23, of Annapolis was convicted on October 31, 2019, of murder in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering after an 11-day jury trial for the murder of Victim 1.  All of the defendants remain detained.

MS-13 is a gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador, with members operating in the State of Maryland, including Anne Arundel County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Frederick County, and throughout the United States.  Branches or “cliques” of MS-13 often work together cooperatively as “Programs,” with the purpose of increasing the gang’s levels of organization, violence, extortion, and other criminal activity, and to assist one another in avoiding detection by law enforcement.  In Maryland and the surrounding area, these cliques include Hempstead Locos Salvatruchas (“HLS”), Parkview Locos Salvatrucha (“PVLS”), Normandie Locos Salvatrucha (“NLS” or “Normandie”), Sailors Locos Salvatrucha Westside (“SLSW” or “Sailors”), Langley Park Salvatrucha (“LPS”), Weedoms Locos Salvatrucha (“Weedoms”), and Cabanas Locos Salvatruchas (“Cabanas”).  A person within the participating cliques is selected as the Program leader.

To protect the gang and to enhance its reputation, MS-13 members and associates are expected to use any means necessary to force respect from those who show disrespect, including acts of intimidation and violence.  MS-13’s creed is based on one of its mottos, “Mata, roba, viola, controla,” which translates to, “kill, steal, rape, control.”  One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible.

Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement.  The FBI and Homeland Security Investigations both have nationwide tiplines that you can call to report what you know.  You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or you can call HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended HSI, the ATF, the Anne Arundel Police Department, the Annapolis Police Department, and the Anne Arundel State’s Attorney Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution.  Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Stendig, and Trial Attorneys Matthew Hoff and Samantha Mildenberg Loiero of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who are prosecuting the case.


ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Moises Alexis Reyes-Canales, a/k/a Sicopita, age 23, of Annapolis, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise and to using, carrying, and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, in connection with his MS-13 gang activities, including a murder and two attempted murders.

According to his plea agreement and other court documents, from about March 11, 2016, Reyes-Canales was a member and associate of MS-13, and participated in a racketeering conspiracy that included assaults, murder, attempted murder, robbery, and drug trafficking.  Specifically, Reyes-Canales admitted that he participated in the murder of a suspected rival gang member, and conspired and attempted to murder two victims in Annapolis.  In addition, between January 2016 and February 2017, Reyes-Canales and other MS-13 members/associates sold marijuana to raise funds for the gang. The drug proceeds were used for, among other purposes, the purchase of more narcotics, weapons, and to send to MS-13 members and associates in other states and in El Salvador.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge James Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore Office; Special Agent in Charge Timothy Jones of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division; Chief Amal Awad of the Anne Arundel County Police Department; Chief Edward Jackson of the Annapolis Police Department; and State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess of the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Office.

“The violence perpetrated by Reyes-Canales and his fellow MS-13 members was brutal and tragic and is totally unacceptable.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland and our local and state partners are working together to remove these violent gang members and to keeping our communities safe from the violent threat of MS-13,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner.  “We continue to work with our counterparts here and abroad to bring to justice these transnational gangs.  We need the continued help of members of our communities in order to carry on our work against MS-13.”

“Reyes-Canales and his co-defendants committed murder, attempted murders, and other violent crimes on behalf of MS-13, causing lasting harm to victims and the Annapolis community,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Through the diligent efforts of law enforcement and department prosecutors, these defendants will no longer harm and intimidate the Annapolis community. We will continue our relentless pursuit of MS-13 gang members, both in the United States and internationally.”

“This case illustrates that gang organizations are driven by greed and profit no matter the cost to innocent lives or our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge James Mancuso for the HSI Baltimore Field Office. “It is HSI’s priority to investigate crimes related to transnational gang violence, a duty we diligently and systematically discharge with the help of our federal, state, local and international law enforcement partners.”

“ATF is committed to focusing our efforts on identifying and investigating those who use violence and firearms to intimidate and brutalize others,” said ATF Baltimore Field Division Special Agent in Charge Tim Jones. “The strong partnerships ATF has with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, as well as prosecutors, are crucial in targeting these offenders and dismantling the violent gangs who try to take over communities.”

As part of the racketeering conspiracy, Reyes-Canales admitted that on March 11, 2016, he and other MS-13 members and associates planned and agreed to murder Victim 1, whom the gang suspected of being a rival gang member. Prior to the murder, Reyes-Canales received authorization to commit the murder from MS-13 leadership.  Juan Carlos Sandoval-Rodriguez and another MS-13 member/associate lured Victim 1 to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, Maryland, and once Victim 1 arrived at the park, members of the gang struck Victim 1 in the head with a branch or stick.  Reyes-Canales, co-defendants Marlon Cruz-Flores, Fermin Gomez-Jimenez, and other members and associates of MS-13, then stabbed Victim 1 repeatedly, killing him.  Reyes-Canales directed everyone during the murder.  While Reyes-Canales and other members of the gang stabbed Victim 1, Co-conspirator 1 and other MS-13 members/associates stood watch outside of the park to ensure no one entered or left the park, and to watch for police presence, so that the gang could complete the murder of Victim 1.  During this time, Co-conspirator 1 communicated by phone and through text messages with Reyes-Canales and Cruz-Flores inside the park, to let them know no one entered the park and they could complete the murder.  After Victim 1 was killed, Gomez-Jimenez left the park to stand watch, so that other MS-13 associates could enter the park help bury Victim 1 in a shallow grave inside the park, at the direction of Reyes-Canales.  Law enforcement did not locate Victim 1’s body until August 28, 2017, when it was exhumed by law enforcement

As detailed in their plea agreements, on October 23, 2016, Reyes-Canales, Gomez-Jimenez, and other members and associates of the MS-13 Hempstead clique in Annapolis, devised a plan to murder Victim 2, an unlicensed taxi driver.  Reyes-Canales, Gomez-Jimenez, Cruz-Flores, co-defendant Manuel Martinez-Aguilar, and other members and associates of MS-13, met at Quiet Waters Park to discuss the plan to murder Victim 2.  At the meeting, each member of the conspiracy was assigned a task to complete the murder and dispose of the evidence.  The group planned to use machetes, knives, and guns to kill the victim.  Reyes-Canales and Cruz-Flores each had a firearm and all the members of the conspiracy were aware that guns would be used in the murder.

A co-conspirator called Victim 2 using another member’s cell phone to arrange for an unlicensed taxi ride.  Victim 2 arrived with another passenger, Victim 3.  Cruz-Flores asked Victim 2 to drive to the area of the 700 block of Annapolis Neck Road in Annapolis.  When they arrived, Reyes-Canales approached the vehicle and pointed a gun at the victims and Cruz-Flores also produced a gun and pointed it at the victims.  Victim 3 attempted to run away and Cruz-Flores shot Victim 3 in the leg, while another MS-13 member repeatedly attacked Victim 3 with a machete.  Victim 2 also tried to run. Reyes-Canales attempted to shoot Victim 2, but his gun failed to discharge.  Co-defendant Martinez-Aguilar and another MS-13 member took Victim 2’s vehicle and attempted unsuccessfully to run him over with the car.  Reyes-Canales, Gomez-Jimenez, and other conspirators chased Victim 2 and Gomez-Jimenez repeatedly stabbed Victim 2 with a knife.  The conspirators fled when they heard police sirens.  A short time later, police arrested Gomez-Jimenez nearby with Victim 2’s blood on his hands and clothes.  A surveillance camera in the area captured Gomez-Jimenez assaulting Victim 2 and the attempt to run over Victim 2 with Victim 2’s vehicle.  DNA subsequently confirmed that the blood on Gomez-Jimenez’ hands matched Victim 2’s blood.  Both victims were transported to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center with life threatening injuries.  Both victims survived but have permanent injuries as a result of the attack.

Reyes-Canales and the government have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea, Reyes-Canales will be sentenced to 35 years in federal prison.  Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar has scheduled sentencing for Reyes-Canales on September 17, 2021, at 9:30 a.m.

Co-defendants Marlon Cruz-Flores, age 25, and Manuel Martinez-Aguilar, a/k/a “El Lunatic” and “Zomb,” age 22, both of Annapolis, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy and gun charge.  Cruz-Flores was sentenced to 38 years in federal prison and Martinez-Aguilar was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison.  Co-defendant Fermin Gomez-Jimenez, age 23, of Annapolis, Maryland pleaded guilty to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise and to using, carrying, and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, and David Diaz-Alvarado, age 20, also of Annapolis, pleaded guilty to murder in aid of racketeering in connection with his MS-13 gang activities.  Co-defendant, Juan Carlos Sandoval-Rodriguez, age 23, of Annapolis was convicted on October 31, 2019, of murder in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering after a nine-day jury trial for the murder of Victim 1.  He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.  All of the defendants remain detained.

Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement.  The FBI and Homeland Security Investigations both have nationwide tiplines that you can call to report what you know.  You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or you can call HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner and commended HSI, the ATF, the Anne Arundel County Police Department, the Annapolis Police Department, and the Anne Arundel State’s Attorney Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution.  Mr. Lenzner and Mr. McQuaid thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Stendig, and Trial Attorneys Matthew Hoff and Samantha Mildenberg Loiero of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who are prosecuting the case.