MS-13 leader pleads guilty in Maryland machete murders

A 40-year-old Silver Spring man who federal prosecutors call an MS-13 gang leader, pleaded guilty Monday to charges stemming from a pair of gruesome machete murders in Maryland.

Jorge Guerra-Castillo, who is also known as “Pelon,” pleaded guilty to conspiracy to participate in racketeering activities, acknowledging that he “orchestrated the murder of two victims and the attempted murder of two others,” according to prosecutors.

“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 Jonathan Lenzner, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland.

Under the plea deal, prosecutors said Guerra-Castillo, a member of the Fulton Locos Salvatruchas clique of MS-13, “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,” a new release said.

He will face between 32 and 45 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 15.

“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,” Lenzner said. “We will utilize every legal resource to ensure that citizens can live peacefully and fearlessly within their own communities.”

According to prosecutors, gang leadership in Maryland sought and received approval from Guerra-Castillo to kill a “suspected rival gang member” in April 2015.

In his plea agreement, Guerra-Castillo said that the victim was lured to a wooded area in Frederick, Maryland, where MS-13 members “repeatedly struck” the victim “with a machete and a knife until he was dead.”

The other murder happened in June 2017, when prosecutors said Guerra-Castillo “approved and assisted in the planning of the murder of a suspected associate of a rival gang.”

Guerra-Castillo said that the victim was lured into a vehicle, driven to a secluded area in Crownsville, and killed with a “machete and knives.” The victim was dismembered and buried in a grave dug by other gang members.

Prosecutors said that Guerra-Castillo was involved with two attempted murders in 2015.

In the first of those cases, Guerra-Castillo said that he gave gang members his approval to kill someone who had stopped making extortion payments to the gang. That person was “forced into a vehicle and taken to a wooded area” but was later released when the person agreed to pay, prosecutors said.

The other attempted murder involved Guerra-Castillo giving his approval to have a “rival gang member” killed. Prosecutors said that victim was attacked with “a machete and knives” but ultimately survived with severe injuries “and both hands nearly severed.”

Branches of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the country, operate in Maryland throughout Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel and Frederick counties.

The gang is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador and other central American countries.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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