Bill Lewis, Assistant Director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, announced the culmination of a multi-agency investigation with charges against 20 members and associates of the MS-13 street gang – charges that included methamphetamine and extortion.
Over the course of the investigation, several individuals were charged by the L.A. District Attorney’s Office with extortion based on existing case information. The federal defendants, the majority of whom are charged with distribution of meth in nine separate indictments, were hooked for indictments returned by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles and unsealed today.
Three defendants were already in custody prior to the operation, nine were arrested during (including one in Kansas City, Missouri), and one is on the run.
Those charged are as follows:
Thomas “Big Boy” Rodriguez (35), Jose “Dreamer” Rodriguez (34), Jorge “Spike” Orellana (34), Anival “Pantera” Orellana (35), Juan “Duende” Garcia (32), Rogelio “Sky” Lemus (42), all of whom are residents of Los Angeles. From Valencia, we have Sandra Hernandez Chinchila (40), and from Kansas City there’s Fabel “Spooky” Roque (25). Continuing the lineup from Los Angeles are Jose “Chema” Avelar (38), Lazaro “Fino” Nunez (28), Santos “Payaso” Ventura (30), Jonathan “Lento” Chavez (25), Thomas “Lil Lonely” Linares (30), and Oscar Chavez (28).
Those already in custody were Mario “Plucky” Morales, Luis “Lil One” Vega (29), Edwin “Directo” Castillo (31), and Ivan “Inocente” Castro (21).
Elvis “Lil Comando” Valencia (33) of Lynwood remains at large.
Seven minor children discovered at defendants’ residences were also taken into protective custody by the Department of Children and Family Services.
The investigation targeted known members and associates of the MS-13 (“Mara Salvatrucha”) street gang, considered to be one of the largest and most violent gangs in the Los Angeles area. Their origins can be traced back to the 1980s, when Los Angeles saw a sudden rise in immigration from those looking to escape the civil war in El Salvador. The number “13” comes from the letter M being the 13th letter of the alphabet, also a known reference to “La Eme,” the Mexican Mafia, a California-based prison gang that oversees MS-13 members and other gangs whose members pay “taxes” in exchange for protection.
They are estimated to have several thousand members across multiple U.S. cities, as well as throughout Central America and Mexico, and operate in areas of Los Angeles including, but not limited to, Rampart, Wilshire, Olympic, and Hollywood.
The federal defendants will make an appearance this afternoon in either the United States District Court in Los Angeles or the federal district in which they were arrested. If convicted as charged, they face statutory maximum sentences ranging anywhere from ten years to life in prison.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Violent Gang Task Force in association with officers from the FBI, Los Angeles P.D., U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations, and the IRS Criminal Investigation.
Los Angeles Times: FBI arrests 19 alleged MS-13 gang members, associates in crackdown
MyFOX L.A.: Federal Indictment Targets 20 MS-13 Gang Members