GREENBELT, Md. – Franklyn Edgardo Sanchez, a/k/a “Freddy,” “Magic,” “Miclo,” and “Delinquente,” age 26, of Adelphi, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to his participation in a racketeering conspiracy, including two murders, related to his activities as part of the MS-13 gang.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. 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 the State of Maryland, including Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Frederick County, and throughout the United States. In Maryland and elsewhere, MS-13 members are organized in “cliques,” smaller groups that operate in a specific city or region. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence, both to maintain membership and discipline within the gang and against rival gangs. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible. Participation in criminal activity by a member, particularly in violent acts directed at rival gangs or as directed by gang leadership, increases 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.
As detailed in the plea agreement, from at least August 2018 through July 2021, Sanchez was a member and associate of Weedams Locos Salvatrucha, (WLS) an MS-13 clique operating primarily in Adelphi, Maryland. On February 23, 2020, at the direction of an MS-13 leader, Sanchez and a co-defendant MS-13 member, shot and killed Victim 1, a former WLS member, in retaliation for the victim’s suspected cooperation with law enforcement.
According to the plea agreement, Victim 1 sat for interviews with local police following a robbery he committed with a fellow WLS member. Victim 1’s co-defendant pleaded guilty prior to Victim 1’s murder. In the weeks prior to the murder, Victim 1 had been in touch with WLS members over social media, text messages and voice calls. Records show that WLS members told Victim 1 that if he met with gang members to make amends, his cooperation would be forgiven. Victim 1 was instructed to wait on the side of a road at a location in or near Adelphi, Maryland, on February 23, 2020. A junior WLS member drove Sanchez and f Sanchez’s co-defendant to the location, where they picked up Victim 1. They drove to a location in or near Hyattsville, Maryland. Sanchez, his co-defendant, and Victim 1 got out of the car and walked into a wooded area, where Sanchez and the co-defendant shot Victim 1. Victim 1 died from his gunshot wounds. As a result of his participation in the murder, Sanchez was promoted within the hierarchy of MS-13.
On August 8, 2020, WLS members, including Sanchez, were gathered at a park in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Sanchez and several of the WLS members agreed to the murder of Victim 4, who was suspected of cooperating with law enforcement and to whom Sanchez owed a debt. After driving to a nearby wooded area, a WLS leader called Victim 4 and told him to come to the wooded area to participate in a disciplinary beating of Sanchez. In reality, as Sanchez knew, the gang intended to murder Victim 4.
Sanchez was armed with a revolver, and a second revolver was given to another MS-13 member to participate in the murder. When Victim 4 arrived, Sanchez and the other MS-13 member each fired multiple shots at Victim 4, causing Victim 4 to fall to the ground. Sanchez then pistol-whipped Victim 4 and stabbed him with a knife. 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 became concerned that his DNA was 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, other WLS members were called and ordered to bring shovels to the wooded area, where they dug a hole and buried Victim 4’s body. Victim 4’s body was later recovered with a bullet wound to the head.
Sanchez also participated in money laundering by transferring gang funds to MS-13 members and associates in El Salvador. Sanchez knew the money he transferred was the proceeds of the gang’s extortion activities
The government and the defendant have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea, Sanchez will be sentenced to 28 years in federal prison. Sanchez will also be required to pay restitution in the full amount of the victims’ losses, including any funeral costs incurred by Victim 1 and Victim 4’s estates. U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis has scheduled sentencing for May 19, 2023.
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 make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. PSN, an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime, is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. 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 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 Assistant Attorney General Polite commended the FBI, HSI and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in the investigation and thanked the Montgomery County Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their assistance. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Crespo, and Trial Attorneys Brendan Woods and 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/project-safe-neighborhoods-psnexile and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.