COURT NEWS: MS-13 accused gangster SAMUEL DIAZ RAMOS, aka “Pequeno” must stand trial with his pals, says Federal Judge

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Twenty-Four Alleged MS-13 Members Facing Federal Indictment for Violent Racketeering, Murder, and Money Laundering Conspiracies

THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY All Crime All The Time

Gang Members Allegedly Committed Five Murders, Conspired to Murder Eight Persons, Engaged in Kidnappings, Extortion, and Drug Trafficking

UPDATE: Federal Judge orders that indictment will stand and MS-13 gangster will go to trial with his alleged cohorts in murder and money laundering scheme

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

CRIMINAL NO. JKB-16-0259 United States vs. SAMUEL DIAZ RAMOS,

Defendant.

The Defendant was originally indicted alongside multiple co-defendants in a six-count indictment, in which the Defendant was charged only in Count Six, conspiracy to commit money laundering, 18 U.S.C 1956(h), and not in Count One, the primary count of the indictment charging conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d). The multidefendant trial was scheduled to begin in June 2020. (See ECF No. 389.) In March, after denying the Defendant’ s first motion to sever his case for separate trial, the Court held a hearing and granted the Defendant’s motion for reconsideration, setting a separate trial date for June 2019. (ECF No. 428; ECF No. 429.) In late May, the Governrnent filed a Fourth Superseding Indictment, adding a charge against the Defendant under Count One. (ECF No. 468.) Now before the Court is the Government’s motion for scheduling, which is, in effect, a motion to rejoin the Defendant for trial alongside his co-defendants in June 2020. (ECF No. 469.) The Defendant opposes the motion on the grounds that the timing of the new indictment raises a presumption of prosecutorial vindictiveness and violates due process. (ECF No. 472.)

The Supreme Court has recognized that “[t]o punish a person because he has done what the law plainly allows him to do is a due process violation of the most basic sort.” Bordenkircher

v. Hayes, 434 U.S. 357, 363 (1978) (citing North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 738 (1969) (Black, J., concurring in part)). In recognition of that principle, the Court has applied a “presumption of vindictiveness” in certain cases where there is a risk that prosecutorial decisions involving reindictment or sentencing may have stemmed from “vindictiveness against a defendant for having successfully attacked [a] first conviction.” Id. at 362 (quoting Pearce, 395 U.S. at 725). Such a presumption does not apply, however, every time a prosecutorial decision detrimental to a defendant follows a defendant’s exercise of a legal right. The presumption “is only warranted ‘in cases in which a reasonable likelihood of vindictiveness exists. “‘ United States v. Perry, 335

F.3d 316, 324 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368, 373 (1982)). As the Supreme Court explained,

the due process violation [with which the presumption of prosecutorial vindictiveness is concerned] lay not in the possibility that a defendant might be deterred from the exercise of a legal right, but rather in the danger that the State might be retaliating against the accused for lawfully attacking his conviction.

Bordenkircher, 434 U.s. at 363 (citing Colten v. Kentucky, 407 U.S. 104 (‘1972), Chaffin v. Stynchcombe, 412 U.s. 17 (1973), and Blackledge v. Perry, 417 U.S. 21 (1974)). On that basis, “a presumption of prosecutorial vindictiveness is generally warranted only in a post-conviction setting,” and “[c]ourts have been extremely cautious in applying the presumption in the pretrial context.” United States v. Perry, 335 F.3d at 324. The Supreme Court declined to apply the presumption to the threat or filing of new •charges during the “give and take” of plea negotiations, Bordenkircher, 434 U.S. at 363, and the Fourth Circuit held that new charges filed after a mistrial did not warrant the presumption either, Perry, 335 F.3d at 324.

This Court concludes that the presumption is not warranted in this circumstance. The facts alleged in the Fourth Superseding Indictment, including newly added allegations specifically linking the Defendant to firearms, drugs, and decisions about violence, are sufficient to support the charge under Count One. Contrary to the Defendant’s suggestion, there is no inherent impropriety in adding a more serious charge in response to pre-trial developments, even if that charge might have been brought earlier. In Bordenkircher, the Supreme Court concluded that there was no due process violation in the decision to add a new charge where the prosecutorial conduct involved “no more than openly present[ing] the defendant with the unpleasant alternatives of forgoing [his] trial [rights] or facing charges on which he was plainly subject to prosecution.” 434

U.S. at 365. Although Bordenkircher involved new charges brought after the rejection of a plea offer, and not, as here, after a severance motion seeking an earlier frial, this Court finds the reasoning in that case to be persuasive and sufficiently applicable to this context:

In our system, so long as the prosecutor has probable cause to believe that the accused committed an offense defined by the statute, the decision whether or not to prosecute, and what charge to file or bring before a grand jury, generally rests entirely in his discretion. Within the limits sets by the legislature’s constitutionally valid definition of chargeable offenses, “the conscious exercise of some selectivity in enforcement is not in itself a federal constitutional violation. . . .”

Id. at 364 (quoting Oyler v. Boles, 368 U.S. 448, 456 (1962)) (footnote omitted). In March, this Court refused to consider unindicted allegations as a basis for rejecting severance at that time. But, this Court is not willing to conclude—as Defendant’s arguments would suggest—that the Government somehow lost the ability to seek indictment based on those allegations simply because it had not done so prior to the Defendant’s successful severance motion.

The Court further finds, on the basis of the Fourth Superseding Indictment, that joinder under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8(b) is appropriate. See United States v. Akinkoye, 185

F.3d 192, 197 (4th Cir. 1999) (“Generally, we adhere to the rule that defendants charged with participation in the same conspiracy are to be tried jointly.”).

Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED:

*
  • The Government’s motion for joinder (ECF No. 469) is GRANTED.
*
  • The Scheduling Order setting trial in this matter for June 2019 (ECF No. 429) is VACATED. The Pretrial Conference previously scheduled for June 7, 2019 is also VACATED.
*
  • Further proceedings in this case SHALL be governed by the dates and deadlines set out in ECF No. 389, as amended by ECF No. 438.

DATED this         day of June, 2019.

BY THE COURT:

James K. Bredar

Chief Judge

Twenty-Four Alleged MS-13 Members Facing Federal Indictment for Violent Racketeering, Murder, and Money Laundering Conspiracies

Gang Members Allegedly Committed Five Murders, Conspired to Murder Eight Persons, Engaged in Kidnappings, Extortion, and Drug Trafficking

THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY – ALL CRIME ALL THE TIME – Copyright 2019

Friday, June 29, 2018

A federal grand jury has returned a third superseding indictment charging 24 alleged members and associates of the gang MS-13.  The indictment was returned on June 27 and unsealed yesterday.

The indictment was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur for the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI, Baltimore Field Office; Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Baltimore Office; Chief Edward G. Hargis of the Frederick City Police Department; Frederick County State’s Attorney J. Charles Smith III; Chief Timothy J. Altomare of the Anne Arundel County Police Department; Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams; Chief Henry P. Stawinski III of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

“MS-13 is ravaging communities throughout the United States with brutal violence, recruiting children to their murderous ranks, destroying families, and leaving behind countless victims,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “This indictment — which charges two dozen alleged MS-13 members with senseless acts of violence — is the latest example of the Department of Justice’s unwavering commitment to combatting violent gangs that prey on communities, whether in Maryland or elsewhere in our country.”

 “MS-13 is one of the most violent and ruthless gangs on the streets today,” said U.S. Attorney Hur.  “Working with our state and local partners, and using the tools of our Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, we are determined to dismantle this organization to make our communities in Maryland safer.”

“This indictment is a direct result of the hard work and dedication shared by state, local and federal authorities in their efforts to combat violent gangs in our Maryland communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson, of the FBI’s Baltimore Division.  “We are committed to combating this epidemic of violence that often takes young lives and creates fear in our communities.  The FBI and our partners will aggressively pursue gangs wherever they surface and are steadfast to making Maryland a safe place for our citizens.”

“We will not allow MS-13 and its members or their affiliates to bring their nefarious and deadly activities into our neighborhoods,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant.  “I am proud of the dedicated agents who have duly executed their duties in our collective pursuit of law, order and justice.”

Twenty-one defendants are charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, including:

  • Jorge Raul Guerra Castillo, aka “Pelon,”36;
  • Carlos Hernandez Diaz, aka “Positivo,” 25;
  • Milton Portillo Rodriguez, aka “Little Gangster,” and “Seco,” 23;
  • Juan Carlos Sandoval Rodriguez, aka “Picaro,” 19;
  • Francisco Ramirez Pena, aka “Tepo,” and “Advertencia,” 24;
  • Jose Alberto Sibrian Garcia, aka “Chango,” 26;
  • Darwin Arias Mejia, aka “City,” and “City Boy,” 25;
  • Miguel Lopez Abrego, aka “Timido,” 30;
  • Albaro Rosa Moreno, aka “Slow,” 23;
  • Ervin Arrue Figureoa, aka “Tricky,” 19;
  • Ronald Mendez Sosa, 20;
  • Edwin Ruiz Urrutia, aka “Sylvestre,” 19:
  • Brenda Argueta Arguete, aka “Prima,” 19;
  • Carlos Ventura Morales, aka “Pantaya,” 30; and
  • Danny Hernandez Solorzano, aka “Titre,” 20.

The names of six other defendants charged in the racketeering conspiracy remain sealed.

In addition, Darvin Guerra Zacarias, aka “Chapin,” 26, and Luis Fernando Cruz Rodriguez, aka “Catra,” 21, are charged with conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, along with Guerra Castillo, Hernandez Diaz, Portillo Rodriguez, Sandoval Rodriguez, Ramirez Pena, Arias Mejia, Rosa Moreno, Arrue Figueroa, Mendez Sosa, Ruiz Urrutia, and Argueta Argueta.

Samuel Diaz-Ramos, aka “Pequeno,” 32, is charged with money laundering conspiracy.

According to the indictment, MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador.  Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, allegedly operate throughout Frederick County, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, Maryland.  All of the defendants except for Rosa Moreno were allegedly members and associates of the Fulton Locotes Salvatrucha Fulton clique of MS-13. Rosa Moreno was an alleged member and associate of the Parkview Locos Salvatrucha clique Parkview of MS-13. 

The six-count indictment alleges that from 2015 and continuing through 2017, MS-13 members and associates engaged in racketeering activity that included murders, conspiracies to commit murder, attempted murders, extortion, robbery, kidnapping, drug trafficking and money laundering.

Specifically, the indictment alleges that the defendants murdered five individuals in Frederick, Anne Arundel, and Montgomery Counties, Maryland, dismembering three of them.  In addition, the defendants allegedly conspired to murder eight individuals, maiming and assaulting one of the individuals with a machete, shooting one individual in the head, and kidnapping and threatening another individual with a firearm to extract payment for extortion.

Initial appearances for the defendants were scheduled in U.S. District Court in Baltimore starting yesterday.

The investigation was conducted by FBI Baltimore Field Office; HSI Baltimore; the Frederick City Police Department; the Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Prince George’s County Police Departments; and the Anne Arundel, Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George’s County States Attorneys with assistance from the Baltimore County Police Department.  Trial Attorney Catherine K. Dick of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth S. Clark and Matthew Dellabetta of the District of Maryland are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.

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