Ms-13 Gang Leader Pleads Guilty to a Racketeering Conspiracy for Gang Activities Including Murders, Attempted Murders, and Extortion | USAO-MD

Baltimore, Maryland – Jorge Guerra-Castillo, a/k/a “Pelon”, age 40, of Silver Spring, Maryland, an MS-13 leader, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to participate in racketeering activities, including three murders and two attempted murders. 

Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to call the FBI’s nationwide tipline, 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713).  The FBI tipline allows individuals to provide information about MS-13’s criminal activities to a central location and the FBI will then disseminate the information to the appropriate law enforcement authorities for investigation.  Your identity will be protected.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Acting Frederick Police Department Chief Dwight Sommers; Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department and Anne Arundel County Police Chief Amal Awad.

“The reign of terror, acts of violence, and horrific murders that Guerra-Castillo and his fellow MS-13 members have committed will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner. “The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland and our partners are committed to breaking the strong hold of violent gangs like MS-13 with swift and stringent prosecution.  We will utilize every legal resource to ensure that citizens can live peacefully and fearlessly within their own communities.”

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. 

At all times of this conspiracy, members of MS-13 were expected to protect the name, reputation, and status of the gang from rival gang members and other persons.  To protect the gang and to enhance its reputation, MS-13 members were expected 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,” and “ver, oir y callar,” which means, “see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing.”

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 a promotion to a leadership position.  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 his guilty plea, beginning some time before January 2015, Guerra-Castillo was a member of the Fulton Locos Salvatruchas (“FLS”) clique of MS-13 and agreed with other MS-13 members to conduct and participate in gang activities through a pattern of racketeering activity that included conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, and drug distribution.

Specifically, on April 7, 2015, MS-13 members murdered Victim 1, a suspected rival gang member, for the purpose of maintaining and increasing rank in MS-13. Gang leadership in Maryland sought and received approval from Guerra-Castillo to kill Victim 1. Guerra-Castillo also arranged for another gang member to participate in the murder of Victim 1. As part of the scheme to murder Victim 1, MS-13 members lured Victim 1 to a wooded area in Frederick, Maryland where members repeatedly struck Victim 1 with a machete and a knife until he was dead.  The day after the murder, MS-13 members buried Victim 1 in a wooded area where Victim 1’s body was ultimately recovered. 

Prior to May 10, 2015, at the direction of Guerra- Castillo, MS-13 gang members forced Victim 2 to make regular extortion payments to the gang.  On May 10, 2015, Guerra-Castillo directed other MS-13 members and associates to kidnap and kill Victim 2, who had stopped making the extortion payments to the gang.  Gang members held Victim 2 at gunpoint while Victim 2 was forced into a vehicle and taken to a wooded area.  Once Victim 2 agreed to pay the gang, Guerra-Castillo and other leadership approved the release of Victim 2, despite their original order directing MS-13 members to murder Victim 2 for lack of payment. 

As stated in his plea agreement, on August 2015, MS-13 members and associates, planned and conspired to murder Victim 3, whom they believed to be a rival gang member.  After identifying Victim 3, gang members sought and received approval from Guerra-Castillo to commit the murder.  Several days prior to August 28, 2015, MS-13 gang members surveilled Victim 3 and his girlfriend, Victim 4 to determine when Victim 3 would be home. On the morning of August 28, 2015, gang members went to the apartment and waited inside for Victim 3 and Victim 4 to return.  When they arrived, three gang members attacked Victim 3 and Victim 4 with a machete and knives.  Although both survived, the attack on Victim 3 left the victim with severe wounds to the face and both hands nearly severed.  As a result of the attack, Victim 3 has lost all function of one hand and still has only limited use of the other. 

Guerra-Castillo also admitted that he approved and assisted in the planning of the murder of a suspected associate of a rival gang, identified as Victim 18.  On June 24, 2017, Guerra-Castillo’s girlfriend lured Victim 18 to a location so MS-13 members could kidnap and kill the victim.  Once the victim was in the car, MS-13 members transported the victim to a secluded area in Crownsville, Maryland, where other MS-13 members had dug a grave and gathered weapons.  When the victim arrived, MS-13 gang members attacked Victim 18 with a machete and knives, until the victim was dead. Victim 18’s body was then dismembered and buried in the grave.  The murder of Victim 18 was intended to maintain and increase the status of MS-13 and allow members to maintain or increase their status within the gang.

Guerra-Castillo and the government have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Guerra-Castillo will be sentenced to between 390 and 540 months in federal prison.  Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar has scheduled sentencing for October 15, 2021 at 2 p.m. 

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the FBI; HSI; the Frederick Police Department; the Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Prince George’s County Police Departments; and the Anne Arundel, Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George’s County State’s Attorneys for their work in the investigation, and the Baltimore County Police Department for its assistance.  Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth S. Clark, Catherine K. Dick, Zachary Stendig, and Anatoly Smolkin, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.

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