GREENBELT, Md. – U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced Brayan Alexander Torres, a/k/a “Spooky,” age 29, of Adelphi, Maryland, yesterday to 28 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for a racketeering conspiracy, including murder, related to his participation in the Weedams Locos Salvatrucha (“WLS”) clique of the MS-13 gang, which operated primarily in Adelphi, Maryland. Torres was the clique’s leader or “First Word.” Judge Xinis also ordered that Torres pay restitution in the full amount of the victims’ losses, including any funeral costs incurred by Victim 4’s estate.
The sentence was announced by Erek L. Barron, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland; Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations Baltimore; and Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
According to court documents, La Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as “MS-13,” is an international criminal organization composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador, with members operating in Maryland and throughout the United States. MS-13 members are organized in “cliques,” smaller groups that operate in a specific city or region, and are required to commit acts of violence, both to maintain membership and discipline within the gang and against rivals. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible. MS-13 members earn promotions and improved standing within the gang for participating in attacks on rival gang members, often at the direction of MS-13 leadership.
On August 8, 2020, Torres and other WLS members, including Franklyn Sanchez, were gathered at a park in Prince George’s County, Maryland, where they agreed to murder Victim 4, who was suspected of cooperating with law enforcement and to whom Sanchez owed a debt. Sanchez was armed with a revolver and Torres handed a second revolver to another MS-13 member, instructing that person to shoot first when Victim 4 arrived. Sanchez and the other WLS member each fired multiple shots at Victim 4, who fell to the ground. Sanchez then pistol-whipped Victim 4 and stabbed him with a knife. Torres then stabbed Victim 4 with a screwdriver. Torres and other WLS members dragged Victim 4’s body to a stream and left it there. As he was leaving the woods, Sanchez noticed he was bleeding and was concerned that his DNA may have been left on the body. To prevent the discovery of DNA or other evidence and to hinder the investigation and prosecution of Victim 4’s murder, Torres called other WLS members, including co-defendant Agustino Eugenio Rivas Rodriguez, and ordered them to bring shovels to dig a hole and bury Victim 4’s body, which law enforcement later recovered with a bullet wound to the head.
On June 5, 2020, Torres conspired with other MS-13 members to kidnap and kill a female member of the rival 18th Street gang. Torres and Rivas Rodriguez ordered subordinate members of the gang to gather at a house with firearms in preparation for the murder, while another MS-13 associate was at a separate location with Victim 5. The group of MS-13 subordinates gathered with guns and were preparing to follow their orders when police arrived on scene and interrupted the plan.
Torres also directed the collection of extortion payments, or “rents,” from at least two extortion victims on behalf of WLS, knowing that the victims making extortion payments did so under the threat of death or bodily injury by members of WLS. Finally, Torres participated in money laundering by transferring gang funds obtained through its extortion activities to MS-13 members and associates in El Salvador. For example, Torres accepted a delivery of rent payments that had just been collected from three brothels by a WLS member, with the intent to use the funds to promote MS-13’s illegal activities, including extortion.
Co-defendants Franklyn Edgardo Sanchez, a/k/a “Delinquente,” age 26; Hernan Yanes-Rivera, a/k/a “Recio,” age 22, both of Adelphi, Maryland; and Agustino Eugenio Rivas Rodriguez, a/k/a “Terrible,” age 25, of Silver Spring, Maryland were sentenced to 28 years, 22 years, and 16 years in federal prison, respectively, for their roles in the racketeering conspiracy.
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 Project Safe Neighborhoods (“PSN”), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.
This case is also 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.
United States Attorney Barron and Acting Assistant Attorney General Argentieri commended the FBI, HSI and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in the investigation and thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and the Montgomery County Police Department for their assistance. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Crespo and Trial Attorney Christopher Taylor of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who are prosecuting the federal case.
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/community-outreach and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/project-safe-neighborhoods-psn.