Per the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Maryland: U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced Brayan Contreras-Avalos, a/k/a “Anonimo,” “Humilde,” and “Malia,” age 28, of Langley Park, Maryland, late yesterday to the statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison on charges related to his participation in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or “MS-13” and a concurrent five years in prison for a drug distribution conspiracy. Contreras-Avalos was convicted after a three-week trial, along with co-defendants Luis Flores-Reyes, a/k/a “Maloso,” “Lobo,”’ and “Viejo Lovvon,” age 42, of Arlington, Virginia and Jairo Jacome, a/k/a “Abuelo”, age 40, of Langley Park, Maryland.
The sentence 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 Wayne Jacobs of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Washington Field Office Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Jarod Forget of the Drug Enforcement Administration – Washington Division; Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III of the Drug Enforcement Administration – New York Division; Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department; and Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department.
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. Contreras-Avalos, along with co-defendant Luis Flores-Reyes, was a leader within the Sailors Clique, which held territory in Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and El Salvador. Co-defendant Jairo Jacome was the highest-ranking member of the local Langley Park Salvatrucha, or “LPS” clique.
At all times of this conspiracy, members of MS-13 were expected to protect the name, reputation, and status of the gang and 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.” 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.
As detailed during the trial, Contreras-Avalos and his co-defendants participated in at least three murders, including four minor victims, during the period of the conspiracy. Most of the victims were purported gang rivals except for one minor victim. For example, in June 2016, members of MS-13, including Contreras-Avalos, stabbed to death two homeless persons who gang members believed to be members of the 18thStreet gang, in Hyattsville, Maryland. The investigation revealed no evidence that the victims were in fact members of any gang. According to the evidence presented at trial, Contreras-Avalos sought on another occasion to kill a homeless man until permission was denied, and later approved an unrelated murder where the intended target survived the attack but an associate did not.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, the defendants ran an extortion scheme in and around Langley Park, extorting local businesses by charging them “rent” for the privilege of operating in MS-13 “territory.” Contreras-Avalos and Flores-Reyes also trafficked illegal drugs, including marijuana and cocaine. A large share of the proceeds of the gang’s illegal activities were sent to gang leadership in El Salvador to further promote the illicit activities of the gang, using structured transactions and intermediaries to avoid law enforcement scrutiny.
Co-defendants Luis Flores-Reyes, a/k/a “Maloso,” “Lobo,”’ and “Viejo Lovvon,” age 42, of Arlington, Virginia and Jairo Jacome, a/k/a “Abuelo”, age 40, of Langley Park, Maryland, were convicted for the racketeering conspiracy and for murder in aid of racketeering. Jacome and Flores-Reyes were also convicted of extortion conspiracy. Flores-Reyes and Jacome face a mandatory sentence of life in prison at their sentencing. Judge Xinis has scheduled sentencing for Flores-Reyes on February 22, 2023 and for Jacome on February 23, 2023.