An MS-13 gang leader in Maryland has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to participate in racketeering activities, including two murders and two attempted murders, federal prosecutors said.
If the court accepts the plea agreement, Jorge “Pelon” Guerra-Castillo, 40, of Silver Spring, now faces up to 45 years in federal prison.
The MS-13 street gang, according to prosecutors, is one of the largest operating in the United States. The gang’s members are mostly from or descended from El Salvadorian and Central American immigrants. The gang organizes itself into various branches called “cliques.”
Prosecutors said that at all times of the conspiracy, anyone associated with MS-13 was “to protect the name, reputation, and status of the gang from rival gang members and other persons.”
“MS-13 members were expected to use any means necessary to force respect from those who showed disrespect, including acts of intimidation and violence,” federal prosecutors noted. “MS-13 had mottos consistent with its rules, beliefs, expectations and reputation including ‘mata, viola, controla,’ which translates as ‘kill, rape, control’ and ‘ver, oir y callar’ which means ‘see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing.’”
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors said, Guerra-Castillo, who before January 2015 was a member of the Fulton Locos Salvatruchas clique, admitted he “agreed with other MS-13 members to conduct and participate in gang activities through a pattern of racketeering activity that included conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, and drug distribution.”
On April 7, 2015, according to the plea agreement, Guerra-Castillo approved the murder of a one victim, who MS-13 gang members lured into a wooded area in Frederick, Maryland, and killed with a machete and knife before burying the body.
On May 10, 2015, the accused directed cohorts to kidnap a victim who had stopped making extortion payments to MS-13, prosecutors said. The victim was kidnapped at gunpoint and taken to a wooded area, where the victim agreed to restart payments. Guerra-Castillo approved the person’s release.
The plea agreement also outlines how Guerra-Castillo approved the brutal attack on a man MS-13 believed to be a rival gang member and his girlfriend. According to prosecutors, gang members went to the victims’ home, where they assaulted the couple with a machete and knife.
“Although both survived, the attack on [the man] left the victim with severe wounds to the face and both hands nearly severed,” prosecutors said. “As a result of the attack, [the man] has lost all function of one hand and still has only limited use of the other.”
As the last part of the agreement, Guerra-Castillo admitted he approved and assisted in planning the murder of a suspected rival gang member. In that case, Guerra-Castillo’s girlfriend allegedly lured the victim to an area where MS-13 could kidnap him. They then brought the victim to a secluded area in Crownsville, Maryland, fatally attacked the victim with a machete and knives and then dismembered the body and buried it.
“The murder of [the victim] was intended to maintain and increase the status of MS-13 and allow members to maintain or increase their status within the gang,” prosecutors noted.
Guerra-Castillo is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 15.