DALLAS (CN) – Federal prosecutors Friday unsealed an indictment of eight Dallas-area members of the MS-13 gang who allegedly used machetes, shotguns and sledgehammers to try to kill rival gang members several times last year.
Seven defendants are in custody, with an unidentified eighth at large, U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox said at a news conference. They are charged with one count of racketeering conspiracy, three counts of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, eight counts of attempted murder in aid of racketeering, three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, two counts of possession and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and one count of illegal alien in possession of a firearm. All eight defendants are in the country illegally.
“Their trademark is violence,” Cox said. “They are required to commit violence in order to be involved with the gang and to participate.”
Cox said the defendants had “tagged” areas in Dallas and Irving with MS-13 graffiti. She said law enforcement began investigating MS-13 after an attack in Running Bear Park in Irving on Sept. 25, 2017. The attack involved “multiple machetes, shotguns and other weapons,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Six attacks are alleged, dating back to July 2017, that involve additional weapons including metal bats and knives. Prosecutors say there were 10 victims, including an unidentified drug dealer and five unidentified members of the 18th Street gang.
Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13 was founded by Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s. It has spread to Central America and Mexico — often through deportees — and throughout the United States.
The gang’s motto is “mata, viola, controla,” meaning “kill, rape, control.” President Donald Trump has called gang members “animals,” and said they are a key source of immigrant crime against Americans. The gang raises money through extorting businesses in its territories, committing robberies and selling drugs, the 38-page indictment states.
The 18th Street gang was founded by Mexican and Central American immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1960s.
One of the rules of MS-13 is that gang members must “attack and kill rivals” — known as “chavalas” — whenever possible. The 18th Street gang is one of those rivals, according to the indictment.
The indictment states that in August 2017, defendants used a female member of MS-13 to lure a victim twice to two Dallas parks to kill him. It says a third attempt was made on his life that month at a Dallas apartment complex when a shotgun was fired at him.
Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson told reporters the gangs are a “threat to the peace and dignity” of the community. She said law enforcement will “attack any threat to the safety and the peace” of citizens.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said police have long worked with area agencies against gang violence.
“While any MS-13 presence in our region is troubling, the public should know that this is not a threat our Dallas police officers are currently encountering on a regular basis,” Rawlings said in a statement Friday.
The seven defendants in custody are:
- Rolan Ivan Hernandez-Fuentes, 25, aka Ivan Fuentes, Tasmania, Ronal Ivan and Fuentes Hernandez;
- Jerson Gutierrez-Ramos, 20, aka Gerson Gutierrez, aka Sparky;
- Cristian Wilfredo Cabrera-Cruz, 26, aka Cristin Benjamin Vigil and Mama;
- Kevin Cruz, 19, aka Street Danger;
- Jose Armando Saravia-Romero, 19, aka Jose Saravia, Mandy and Pinky;
- Manuel Amaya-Alvarez, 21, aka Manuel Amaya and Chocolate; and
- Jonathan Alexander Baires, 20, aka Splinter.