By John Lynds
One third of a violent street gang, allegedly responsible for the murders of three teens in Eastie since September, a number of shootings and other violent acts were apprehended during a federal sweep here and surrounding communities last Friday dubbed “Operation Mean Streets.”
Fifty-six alleged leaders, members, and associates of the criminal organization “La Mara Salvatrucha,” or “MS-13,” have been indicted on federal racketeering conspiracy charges, including charges related to murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, and drug trafficking. Various defendants are also charged with drug trafficking, firearm violations, immigration offenses, and fraudulent document charges.
In Eastie, Edwin Guzman, a/k/a “Playa,” 30, Jose Hernandez-Miguel, a/k/a “Muerto,” 27, Edgar Pleitez, a/k/a “Cadejo,” 26, Cesar Martinez, a/k/a “Cheche,” 35, Carlos Melara, a/k/a “Chuchito,” a/k/a “Criminal,”19, Joel Martinez, a/k/a “Animal,” 20, Oscar Duran, a/k/a “Demente,” 24, Edwin Gonzalez, a/k/a “Sangriento,” 20, Henry Josue Parada Martinez, a/k/a “Street Danger,” 20, Edwin Diaz, a/k/a “Demente,” 18, Ramiro Guerra, a/k/a “Camello,” 42, Manuel Martinez, a/k/a “Gordo,” 44, and Manuel Flores, a/k/a “Manny”, 41 were all indicted with one count of racketeering influenced corrupt organization (RICO) conspiracy.
The indictment alleges that several of the defendants are responsible for the murders of at least five people since 2014, in Eastie and Chelsea, as well as the attempted murder of at least 14 people.
These murderes include the shooting death of Christofer Perez-De la Cruz, 16, on January 10 on Falcon Street as well as the stabbing deaths of Wilson Martinez, 15, on September 7 at Constitution Beach and Irvin Depazm, 15, who was killed two weeks after Martinez on Trenton Street.
“Thanks to the coordinated efforts of our local police in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, the streets of East Boston are now safer,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro. “We should all be thankful for the commitment and hard work of our public safety officials.”
According to Department of Justice, during the course of this investigation, it is alleged that MS-13 actively recruited prospective members, known as “paros,” inside East Boston High School. Prospective members were typically 14 or 15 years old. Under the strict rules of MS-13, as communicated to the local “cliques” by the leaders of MS-13 in El Salvador, these prospective members must engage in significant violent criminal activity on behalf of the criminal organization, usually the killing of a rival gang member, in order to become a full-fledged member of MS-13, known as a “homeboy.”
“Thank you to all of our law enforcement agencies for working together last night and executing ‘Operation Mean Streets’,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “Because of last weeks raids our neighborhood of East Boston will be much safer. Fifty six criminals have immediately been removed from our streets. Each and every one of these officers deserve our praise for protecting us each and every day. I ask that all of you take a moment to show your gratitude to them as well.”
History of MS-13
According to court documents, in 2012, MS-13 became the first, and remains the only, street gang to be designated by the United States government as a “transnational criminal organization.” Today, MS-13 is one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States, and is an international criminal organization with over 6,000 members in the United States, with a presence in at least forty-six states and the District of Columbia, as well as over 30,000 members internationally, mostly in El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala. In Massachusetts, MS-13 is largely composed of immigrants and descendants of immigrants from El Salvador and has members operating throughout the Commonwealth, with higher concentrations in East Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Revere, and Somerville.
Violence is a central tenet of MS-13, as evidenced by its core motto — “mata, viola, controla,” translated as, “kill, rape, control.” During the course of this investigation, this violence was directed against rival gangs, particularly the 18th Street gang, and anyone who was perceived to have disrespected MS-13. The 18th Street gang, another criminal organization in Central America with members living in the United States, has been a longstanding rival of MS-13. MS-13 members and associates often commit murders and attempted murders using machetes, knives, and chains in order to intimidate rival gang members.
The indictment further alleges that members of the MS-13 organization in Massachusetts sell cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, and commit robberies, in order to generate income to pay monthly dues to the incarcerated leadership of MS-13 in El Salvador. This money is allegedly used to pay for weapons, cell phones, shoes, food, and other supplies for MS-13 members in and out of jail in El Salvador.