MS-13 gang members found guilty in slew of Maryland crimes, murders

A three-month federal trial ends with the conviction of four MS-13 gang members. Prosecutors say they carried out a string of murders and other crimes in Maryland between 2015 and 2017.

A federal jury in Baltimore convicted Milton Portillo-Rodriguez, 26, Juan Carlos Sandoval-Rodriguez, 22, Oscar Armando Sorto Romero, 22; and Jose Joya Parada, 20 of several violent crimes, a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office read.

The United States Attorney for the District of Maryland announced the convictions Wednesday and the MS-13 gang members face life sentences, said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron.

“The brutal and tragic violence perpetrated by these defendants and their fellow MS-13 gang members is totally unacceptable,” he said. “We will continue to work to bring to justice these transnational gangs, and we welcome the continued support from members of our communities in order to carry on our work against MS-13.”

During the trial, prosecutors focused on four murders. Between March and August 2017, the men lured and kidnapped rival gang members, took them to parks or wooded areas and brutally murdered them.

One victim was a 17-year-old from Annapolis, who they stabbed more than 100 times. Reports add that his body was burned, organs removed and he was buried in a clandestine grave.

Two days later, the gang kidnapped another man from Silver Spring and brought him to a wooded area in Frederick. They killed him with knives and machetes before burying him in a shallow grave.

Then on June 24, 2017, the gang lured a 21-year old woman into a car and drove her to a wooded area in Crownsville. She was killed and buried in a secret grave. Finally, in August, the MS-13 members gang-lured another victim to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, where he was hit in the head with a hammer and slashed with a machete until he died. He was also buried in a grave in the park, prosecutors told jurors.

In addition to violence against rival gang members, prosecutors also linked the men to racketeering, extortion and drug sales in Frederick County, Montgomery County and Anne Arundel County.

Barron said the gang was involved in a heated turf battle between rivals and wanted to increase the status of MS-13, and allow members to climb the ranks in the gang.

MS-13 is a national and international gang. It is one of the largest street gangs in the country.

Prosecutors say the gang’s members were expected to protect the name, reputation, and status of the gang from rival gangs. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence both to maintain membership and get promotions to leadership positions in the gang.

A string of law enforcement agencies worked in the case, which stretched across several counties. More than 30 defendants have been convicted in this and a related case, prosecutors say.

“These convictions mark a profound victory for the people of Maryland, who do not deserve to be intimidated by the reprehensible actions of these criminals,” said James R. Mancuso, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Baltimore. “Hopefully this prosecution and the sentences facing these defendants will deter others from joining criminal organizations.”

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