by Kerry Picket
In the midst of the Obama administration transporting around 1,000 unaccompanied minors from Border Patrol centers in Texas to facilities in Baltimore, MD, and Richmond, VA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced in a press release on Wednesday that a Federal Grand Jury returned a second superseding indictment charging four Maryland men in connection with a conspiracy to participate in murder in aid of a racketeering enterprise known as the La Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13.
The El Centro Border Patrol Sector repeatedly apprehends M-13 gang members as they attempt to cross the border. They do not give the believed percentage of those crossing successfully to those arrested.
Hyattsville residents Hector Daniel Villanueva-Cortez, aka Muertito, 24; Roni Arriola-Palma, aka Maniako, 24; Luiz Guzman-Ventura, aka Casper or Chele, 20; and Jose Rodriguez-Nunez, aka El Killer, 25, were named in the indictment.
“Attacking and dismantling violent criminal enterprises like MS-13 is one of HSI’s highest enforcement priorities,” said William Winter, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore.
“Our investigation revealed that MS-13 is an enterprise that participates in criminal acts, such as murder, attempted murder, violent assaults, witness intimidation and retaliation, and extortion. HSI special agents will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to target MS-13 members and other transnational criminal street gangs that are a rising public safety threat in our communities.”
According to ICE, the second superseding indictment was returned June 16 under seal and unsealed at the June 17 initial appearance for Arriola-Palma in federal court in Greenbelt.
Arriola-Palma was arrested on June 17 by HSI special agents and assisted by the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office.
Charges remain pending against eight of the original defendants: Jorge Enrique Moreno-Aguilar, aka Flaco or Castigato, 20, of District Heights; Juan Alberto Ortiz-Orellana, aka Chele or Furia, 25, of District Heights; Melvin Marquez-Sanchez, aka Demente, 19, formerly of New York; Carlos Beltran-Flores, aka Joker, 22, of Hyattsville; Wilmer Argueta, aka Chengo or Happy, 22, of Hyattsville; Eric Antonio Mejia-Ramos, aka Flaco, 20, of Hyattsville; Minor Perez-Chach, aka Minor Chach-Perez, Little Bad or Bryant Sacarias, 23, of Hyattsville; and Miguel Angel Manjivar, aka Garra or Masflow, 22, of Hyattsville.
A ninth original defendant, Francisco Hernandez, aka Chicle, 21, of Silver Spring, pleaded guilty to his participation in the conspiracy. All of the defendants are in custody.
HSI’s Operation Community Shield Task Force partners with existing federal, state, and local anti-gang efforts to identify violent street gangs and build intelligence on gang members and associates, gang criminal activities, and international movements to arrest, prosecute, imprison, and/or deport transnational gang members.
ICE states, “Since the inception of Operation Community Shield in February 2005, HSI special agents working in conjunction with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the nation have arrested more than 33,000 street gang members and associates linked to more than 2,600 different gangs. At least 43 percent of those arrested had a violent criminal history. More than 438 of those arrested were gang leaders, and more than 4,500 were MS-13 gang members or associates. Through this initiative, HSI has seized more than 5,615 firearms nationally.”
MS-13 is a national and international gang composed mainly of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador. Branches or groups of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, run throughout Prince George’s County and Montgomery County.
Recent news reports say that border patrol agents are currently struggling to keep up with the massive flood of illegal immigrants. Chris Cabrera, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 3307 in the Rio Grande Valley, told National Review that gang members from MS-13 are being allowed into the U.S. as part of the illegal immigrant surge.
Referring to an individual he dealt with, Cabrera asked, “If he’s a confirmed gang member in his own country, why are we letting him in here?”
Art Del Cueto, president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 2544 in Tucson, told NRO that although agents may recognize gang-affiliated tattoos of minors crossing the border, they must treat them the same as anybody else.
“It’s upsetting that a lot of them are 16 or 17 years old and a lot of them are not going to face deportation,” Cueto says. He has visited the Nogales station, which he estimates is holding 1,100 children who crossed the border.
The children have been sent from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and have also crossed the border near the Nogales station, he says.
“I’ve heard people come in and say, ‘You’re going to let me go, just like you let my mother go, just like you let my sister go. You’re going to let me go as well, and the government’s going to take care of us,’” Cabrera said. “Until we start mandatory detentions, mandatory removals, I don’t think anything is going to change. As a matter of fact, I think it’s going to get worse.”