A federal indictment alleges members and associates of the MS-13 gang committed at least seven murders including several in which victims were hacked to death with machetes in Southern California’s Angeles National Forest over the past two years.
The indictment, shared Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, charges 22 people linked to a subset of the gang known as the Fulton clique and the unsealed document states how in one case a member of a rival gang who was believed to have defaced MS-13 graffiti was targeted.
The indictment states that on March 6, 2017, the rival – referred to as J.S. – was abducted at The Wash, choked and driven to a remote area of the Angeles National Forest where five people – Angel Amadeo Guzman, Ever Joel Morales, Fernando Garcia Parada, Jose Baquiax Alvarez, and Edwin Isaac Mendez – dismembered him with a machete and threw the body parts into a canyon after Guzman cut the heart out of the body.
The 78-page indictment unsealed on Monday charges all but one of the 22 LA-based defendants with conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
Investigators referenced MS-13 hand gestures used by some of the accused (left and right)
In one case a victim was dismembered with a machete and the body parts were thrown into a canyon in the Angeles National Forest after the heart was carved out
The unsealed document states how the victim was a member of a rival gang who was believed to have defaced MS-13 graffiti
They then met at an abandoned church occupied by Edgard Velasquez to show him photographic proof of the slaying.
The indictment states that Velasquez had telephonic contact with the alleged participants eight times that day.
The 12-count indictment that was unsealed on Monday, charges gang leaders who allegedly authorized and coordinated the murders.
Alleged members who have been accused were pictured with their faces partially concealed in a clip from CBS 2.
It focuses on 200 overt acts to increase the gang’s membership, expand power and intimidate outsiders, starting with alleged $1.22 million drug-trafficking activities, including the sale of narcotics proceeds to the Fulton clique in Maryland that was seized in Nebraska in 2010.
The victim was abducted at The Wash, located at the entrance to the Los Angeles riverbed at Fulton Avenue and Vanowen Street in North Hollywood, California (pictured) before being choked and driven to the remote forest area
Some of the evidence mentioned in the indictment included social media communications
The alleged gang members were said to have used firearms in some of the killings
Video courtesy KTLA
As well as the conspiracy charge, the indictment contains four counts of first-degree murder related to machete, knife and baseball bat killings in the Angeles National Forest, which is within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
Those four murders – along with a fifth that occurred in the Malibu hills and a sixth in that was committed in the Fulton clique’s stronghold of Whitsett Fields Park in North Hollywood – are also charged as violent crimes committed in aid of racketeering (VICAR), and those six counts allege that the victims were killed ‘for the purpose of gaining entry to and maintaining and increasing position in MS-13 Los Angeles.’
MS-13 members who occupy the San Fernando Valley were allegedly involved with influencing an influx of young immigrants from Central America who were ‘required to kill a rival or someone perceived to be adverse to MS-13 to be initiated into MS-13’.
The RICO charge alleges drug-trafficking activities, including sales to MS-13’s Fulton clique
The initials ‘MS’ are etched into the back of a man. MS-13 members who occupy the San Fernando Valley were allegedly involved with influencing an influx of young immigrants from Central America who were ‘required to kill a rival or someone perceived to be adverse to MS-13 to be initiated’
‘The greatest tragedy in these cases is that these young victims likely left their homelands hopeful that in the United States they would find safety and prosperity,’ Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said on Tuesday.
‘Instead, these victims had the misfortune of crossing paths with violent gang members who preyed on the vulnerabilities of their immigrant experience. My office will vigorously prosecute these defendants and continue to work with other agencies to enhance public safety in the communities where MS-13 and other brutal gangs operate.’
Also charged are gang members who allegedly murdered and attempted to murder rival gang members, those who were perceived to be cooperating with law enforcement, and in one instance, a homeless man who was temporarily living in a park controlled by the gang.
One of the victims was only 15 years old.
Three defendants were taken into custody over the past several days in the Los Angeles area as a result of an investigation by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Gangs, comprising FBI, LAPD and deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Some of the murders were committed in the Fulton clique’s stronghold of Whitsett Fields Park in North Hollywood
Three defendants were taken into custody over the past several days in the Los Angeles area as a result of an investigation by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Gangs, comprising FBI, LAPD and deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. File image from May 17
A fourth defendant said to have violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act was arrested over the weekend in Oklahoma.
Over the past year, the other 18 defendants named in the indictment were taken into custody, some on state charges and some on federal charges previously filed.
As part of the RICO conspiracy, members of the gang allegedly committed murders in 2014 and 2015, the second of which is part of a previous racketeering case against the leadership of MS-13 in Los Angeles.
The superseding indictment announced Tuesday, which was returned by a federal grand jury on July 9, adds 15 defendants to an indictment filed in March.
‘We have now taken off the streets nearly two dozen people associated with the most violent arm of MS-13 in Los Angeles, where the gang is believed to have killed 24 people over the past two years,’ United States Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement Tuesday.
‘The collaborative law enforcement effort solved several murder cases and dealt a severe blow to members of the gang who engaged in acts of brutality not seen in the region for over 20 years.
Four counts of first-degree murder are related to machete, knife and baseball bat killings. Paul D. Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, announced the charges Tuesday
‘The greatest tragedy in these cases is that these young victims likely left their homelands hopeful that in the United States they would find safety and prosperity,’ Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said on Tuesday