Today, a federal jury convicted Luis Flores-Reyes, a/k/a “Maloso,” “Lobo,”’ and “Viejo Lovvon,” age 41, of Arlington, Virginia; Jairo Jacome, a/k/a “Abuelo,” age 40, of Langley Park, Maryland; and Brayan Contreras-Avalos, a/k/a “Anonimo,” and “Humilde,” age 27, of Langley Park, Maryland, on federal charges related to a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or “MS-13.” Jacome and Flores-Reyes were also found guilty of murder in aid of racketeering. Jacome was convicted of an extortion conspiracy and Flores-Reyes was also convicted of extortion conspiracy. The jury also found Contreras-Avalos and Flores-Reyes guilty of a drug distribution conspiracy.
“These defendants wreaked havoc within our communities through murder, extortion, and drug trafficking, now they will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron. “We will relentlessly prosecute MS-13gang members who terrorize our Maryland communities with intimidation and violence.”
“MS-13 terrorizes communities throughout the United States and abroad, using fear, violence, and intimidation,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “MS-13 exploits vulnerable young people and immigrant communities that may not have easy access to law enforcement. This prosecution demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to dismantling this criminal organization and protecting all people.”
“Members of MS-13, including Flores-Reyes, Jacome, and Contreras-Avalos, sow fear and violence in local communities through murder, extortion, drug trafficking, and witness tampering,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. “Today’s convictions represent some of the finest work the FBI and its partners undertake to hold violent gang members to account for the irreparable harm they have inflicted on humanity. The investigation and its results should also serve as yet another reminder of the consequences to be faced by those who traffic in violence. We and our partners remain committed to working together to aggressively pursue and dismantle these criminal enterprises who continue to threaten the residents of our communities.”
“MS-13 and gang violence plague our communities and impede law abiding citizens and their right to live without fear and intimidation,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino. “These convictions are a testament to DEA and law enforcement’s commitment to ensuring the American public’s health and safety.”
“Today’s conviction highlights HSI’s commitment to protecting public security and the keeping our communities safe,” said HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Steve K. Francis. “We will continue working with our local, state, and federal partners to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations such as MS-13.”
“There aren’t adequate words to describe the gruesome nature of the crimes committed by the three defendants,” said Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore field office. “The acts that Flores-Reyes, Jacome, and Contreras-Avalos committed are horrific and clearly warrant the convictions they received today. HSI Baltimore is proud to have worked with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to bring these three to justice. We will continue to work tirelessly to protect the law-abiding citizens of Maryland from notorious transnational gangs like MS-13.”
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. Jacome was the highest-ranking member of the local Langley Park Salvatrucha, or “LPS” clique. Flores-Reyes and Contreras-Avalos were leaders within the Sailors Clique, which held territory in Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Texas and El Salvador.
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.
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.” Flores-Reyes and Contreras-Avalos 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.
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 their trial, Flores-Reyes, Jacome, and Contreras-Avalos participated in at least six 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 individuals living on the streets of Hyattsville, Maryland, who gang members believed to be members of the 18th Street gang. The investigation revealed no evidence that the victims were in fact members of any gang.
Among the most important rules of MS-13 is the prohibition against talking to law enforcement, embodied by the maxim ver, oir, y callar – see, hear, and say nothing. The gang enforced this rule by placing a “green light” – an order to kill – on any member of MS-13 who was thought to be informing on the gang. In December 2016, Jacome directed and participated in the murder of a 14-year-old member of MS-13 who was suspected of talking to the police. The boy’s remains were discovered more than 18 months later in the woods outside of Germantown, Maryland.
Additionally, in March 2017, a member of the Sailors Clique, who was hiding from law enforcement in the Lynchburg, Virginia, area, after committing a murder in 2016 in Gaithersburg, Maryland, had a dispute with a local high school student over marijuana. In response, Flores-Reyes told a group of MS-13 members to drive down to Lynchburg and murder this student. The gang members kidnapped the student from his front lawn and cut his hand off before killing him. After the murder, Flores-Reyes helped to hide and protect his fellow MS-13 members from law enforcement.
Flores-Reyes and Jacome face a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Contreras-Avalos faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis has not scheduled sentencing hearings at this time.
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.