The 2016 stabbing and shooting death of Christofer Perez-De la Cruz, whose body was found on Falcon Street, became the third teenager to be killed during a violent string of gang-related homicides that rocked Eastie from 2015 to the end of 2016.
Perez-De la Cruz’s killing followed the stabbing deaths of Wilson Martinez, 15, on September 7 2015, at Constitution Beach and Irvin Depazm, 15, who was killed two weeks after Martinez on Trenton Street.
Sadly, Perez-De la Cruz’s killing wouldn’t be the last. His was followed by the murder of Blanca Lainez in June 2016 and then Luis Fernando Orellana Ruano, who was stabbed to death at East Boston Stadium on Christmas Eve 2016.
Last week an MS-13 member pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to racketeering conspiracy involving the murder of Perez-De la Cruz.
Rigoberto Mejia, a.k.a “Ninja,” 32, a Salvadoran national, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for July 24, 2018.
According to court records, during the multi-year investigation of MS-13 Mejia was identified as a “homeboy,” or full member, of MS-13’s Trece Locos Salvatrucha (TLS) clique. Evidence further showed that on Jan. 10, 2016, Mejia and other MS-13 members murdered Perez-De la Cruz, whom they believed to be a member of the rival 18th Street gang. Mejia’s alleged co-conspirators stabbed Perez-De la Cruz’s multiple times while Mejia shot him.
After a multi-year investigation, Mejia was one of dozens of alleged leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 named in an indictment targeting the gang’s criminal activities in Massachusetts. Mejia is the 44th defendant to be convicted as part of the ongoing prosecution. To date, all eight defendants who have gone to trial have been convicted, and 36 others have pleaded guilty.
Under the terms of the proposed plea agreement, Mejia will be sentenced to 330 months in prison. He will also be subject to deportation upon the completion of his sentence. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
In February 2016, federal agents conducted a huge sweep to take down MS-13 operating in and around Eastie. Fifty-six alleged leaders, members, and associates of the criminal organization “La Mara Salvatrucha,” or “MS-13,” had 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.
According to officials of the 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.”
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.