Two Local Leaders Of MS-13 Gang Sentenced To Over 25 Years In Prison For Racketeering, Extortion, and Murder | USAO-NDCA


SAN JOSE – Tomas Rivera, a/k/a Jonas Portillo Escobar, a/k/a Profugo, a/k/a Caballo, and Alexander Martinez-Flores, a/k/a Pocar, were sentenced to prison for their respective roles in Santa Cruz-based MS-13 gang-related crimes, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Tatum King.  Rivera was sentenced today to 27 years in prison for conspiring to engage in racketeering, extortion by force, and murder in aid of racketeering.  Flores was sentenced on June 18, 2020, to 30 years in prison for using a firearm to cause murder, conspiracy to commit murder and extortion, and racketeering conspiracy. The sentences were handed down by the Hon. Edward J. Davila, U.S. District Judge.  

On January 23, 2020, Rivera, 27, of El Salvador, pleaded guilty to all the charges pending against him and on March 16, 2020, Martinez-Flores, 29, of Santa Cruz, Calif., pleaded guilty to three of the six counts then pending against him.  Both defendants admitted being a member of the transnational street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13.  MS-13 has local chapters, or “cliques,” throughout the world, including El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States. Members and associates of the gang engage in crimes such as murder, narcotics trafficking, extortion, and obstruction of justice. MS-13 members enforce gang rules and protect gang territory with violence, including murder. The Santa Cruz Salvatrucha Locos (SCSL) is an MS-13 clique that operates in and around Santa Cruz, Calif.

In his plea agreement, Rivera admitted he arrived in Santa Cruz in April of 2016, where he quickly stepped in as second-in-command of the SCSL clique of the MS-13 gang.  Rivera admitted he played a key role in a murder committed by SCSL gang members.  Specifically, Rivera admitted that in April 2016, he discussed seeking approval from gang members in El Salvador to kill a suspected rival gang member.  Then, after the murder was committed by Martinez-Flores and other SCSL members on September 22, 2016, Rivera collected the murder weapons.  Rivera, Martinez-Flores and other SCSL members then celebrated the murder.  Rivera’s plea agreement also provides details of addition crimes he has committed as part of the gang including the following:

  • At a meeting on October 2016, Rivera took charge of organizing the day-to-day efforts of SCSL members to kill additional rivals. 

  • Rivera destroyed evidence of another murder by MS-13 members.  Specifically, the agreement described Rivera’s involvement in burning clothing and a car that played a role in the murder.

  • From April 2016 through January 2017, Rivera engaged in drug trafficking and extortion with other SCSL members. 

  • Rivera coordinated with MS-13 members in El Salvador and other places to carry out the directives of the gang’s leadership in and around Santa Cruz.  Rivera acknowledged that he pushed for strict adherence to MS-13 rules, including the rule that required all people who wanted to join the gang to commit a murder to qualify for membership. 

  • Rivera was involved in patrolling the area over which SCSL gang members asserted their control.  Rivera admitted in the plea agreement that on one occasion he and other SCSL members beat up a suspected rival gang member they found in their territory.  On another occasion, Rivera and other MS-13 members were in a car when they spotted people they suspected of being rival gang members.  One of the MS-13 members shot at and attempted to kill a member of the group. 

As for Martinez-Flores, he admitted that he was one of the shooters in the September 22, 2016, murder committed by SCSL gang members. Martinez-Flores admitted that in April 2016, the gang discussed seeking approval from El Salvador to kill a suspected rival gang member and after the murder was approved, Martinez-Flores was one of the gang members tasked with killing the victim.  Martinez-Flores was one of the gang members who celebrated the murder after it was completed.  Martinez-Flores’s plea agreement also describes how Martinez-Flores collected an extortion payment—the “monthly fee due to SCSL”—from a local drug dealer.

A federal grand jury returned a second superseding indictment against Rivera, Martinez-Flores and others on August 16, 2018.  The indictment charged Rivera with one count of racketeering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); one count of conspiracy to commit extortion by force, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5).  Rivera pleaded guilty to all three counts against him. Martinez-Flores was charged in multiple counts in the same second superseding indictment, and pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy, conspiracies to commit extortion and murder, and use of a firearm causing murder counts. The remaining counts against him were dismissed at sentencing.

In addition to the prison terms, Judge Davila sentenced both defendants to a 5-year period of supervised release.  The defendants have been in continuous federal custody since their arrests, and they will be transferred to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons to serve the remainder of their sentences. 

In addition to Rivera and Martinez-Flores, eight additional defendants in this case have pleaded guilty for their respective roles in the SCSL and MS-13 criminal enterprise.  Seven such defendants have been sentenced as reflected in the following chart:

Name

Charges

Sentence

Ismael Alvarenga-Rivera, a/k/a Casper

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Sentenced on September 23, 2019, to 90 months in prison

Willfredo Ayala-Garcia, a/k/a Chino

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Sentenced on September 17, 2019, to 80 months in prison

Jose David Abrego-Galdamez, a/k/a Largo

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Sentenced on September 16, 2019, to 36 months in prison, consecutive to his sentence in CR 17-567 BLF

Gerber Morales, a/k/a Choco

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A)(viii)

Sentenced on September 17, 2019, to 72 months in prison

Emilio Escobar-Albarnga, a/k/a Diablo

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A)(viii)

Sentenced on January 20, 2020, to 60 months in prison

Josue Alcedis Escobar Cerritos, a/k/a Penguino

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A)(viii)

Sentenced on July 30, 2019, to 72 months in prison

Melvin Lopez, a/k/a Sharky

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); Conspiracy to Commit Murder, 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)

Sentenced on January 27, 2020, to 120 months in prison

Velarmino Escobar-Ayala, a/k/a  Meduza

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); Conspiracy to Commit Murder, 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)

Scheduled to be sentenced on July 6, 2020

The United States Attorney’s Office’s Organized Crime Strike Force is prosecuting the case. This prosecution is the result of an investigation conducted by HSI with the assistance of the Santa Cruz Police Department.   



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