According to a federal affidavit, Homeland Security agents found MS-13 gang member Carlos Almonte in possession of CMPD documents about a robbery case against him. Those documents contained the names of officers, victims and witnesses in the case, and were either circled or crossed out.
The documents also talked about meetings amongst the gang members, which often occurred in Charlotte hotels or parks.
During one meeting, investigators said the suspects "discussed gang structure and expansion, the need to identify individuals cooperating with law enforcement, using an apartment for individuals they kidnap, and collecting rent or taxing drug dealers."
In May, law enforcement arrested 37 people after they were indicted for participation in the MS-13 gang. While most lived in Mecklenburg County, some lived in other places including Rock Hill, Kannapolis and Concord. All allegedly participated in the gang since 2009 and now face at least one charge of racketeering and conspiracy.
All 37 alleged gang members are accused of organizing, meeting and committing criminal acts on behalf of MS-13 in Charlotte and the surrounding areas.
The FBI roundup
The FBI worked with other law enforcement agencies to locate 16 individuals. An additional 16 other accused gang members were already in custody for previous offenses and face at least one additional charge for their gang participation. Five other suspects remain at-large. Warrants have been issued for their arrest.
"This lengthy investigation has uncovered alleged crimes ranging from petty drug deals to capital murder," said Ryan L. Spradlin, Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the Homeland Security Department. "Criminal gangs like MS-13 inflict untold damage in our communities by engaging in violence and trafficking in drugs, weapons, and even human beings."
All 37 alleged gang members are accused of organizing, meeting and committing criminal acts on behalf of MS-13 in Charlotte and the surrounding areas. They each face at least one count of racketeering and conspiracy for being a part of the organization. Twenty-two others face charges including possession of a weapon, drug trafficking and murder. The 16 arrested Wednesday were immediately arraigned and will each have a bond hearing on May 26.
Documents unsealed connect four previous murder investigations into the ongoing gang operation. All four suspects accused of murder have been previously arrested or prosecuted.
On April 23, 2011, accused gang member Raul Contreras, 24, of Charlotte, murdered Rigoberto Castillo in Rock Hill. On June 23, 2011, Cesar Garcia-Perez, 35, also of Charlotte, killed rival gang member Alejandro Sebastian Alvarez, according to the indictment unsealed Wednesday.
Jose Orlando Ibarra, of Charlotte, is also believed to have been killed for being a rival gang member, according to federal documents. Accused MS-13 gang member Miguel Zelaya was previously charged in his December 18, 2013 murder.
On June 6, 2014, accused gang members Christian Pena and Luis Ordonez-Vega killed Noel Navarro Hernandez in Charlotte, according to federal officials.
In addition to their previous charges, Zelayam, Ordonez-Vega and Pena now face a charge of committing a murder on behalf of an organized, criminal gang. That charge, Murder in Aid of Racketeering, carries a possible death sentence. If convicted, all three would face a minimum of life in prison. A second charge for the possession of a firearm during those murders also carries the possibility of death sentences.
Arrest warrants have been issued for the five accused gang members missing and not yet in custody. Federal officials said four had residencies outside the country but one lived in Kannapolis. Salvador Ruiz, 26, is wanted for attempted murder and possession of a firearm. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
MS-13 originated in Los Angeles and is comprised of mostly immigrants or descendants of immigrations from El Salvador and other Central and Latin American countries, according to the United States Department of Justice. There are an estimated 6,000 members in the United States and a total of 30,000 worldwide.
MS-13 in North Carolina is divided into different groups, including the "Charlotte Locotes Salvatrucha" and "Centralles." Groups sometimes work together to commit crimes and protect the reputation of the larger MS-13 organization, according to the DOJ.
Gang members often wear blue or black and white. They often have tattoos related to "Mara Salvatrucha" or "MS-13."
Those named in the grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday:
Carlos Almote a/k/a “Rabioso,” 25, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Jose Danny Argueta a/k/a “Shadow,” 23, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Miriam Barilles-Escamilla a/k/a “Gata,” 26, of El Salvador. (not arrested)
Juan Bergamasco-Suarez a/k/a “Temper” or “Kilo,” 21, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Milton Chavarria a/k/a “Syko,” 23, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Raul Contreras a/k/a “Smoke,” 24, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Luis Erazo a/k/a “Joker,” 24, of Honduras. (arrested)
Marvin Fuentes-Canales a/k/a “Crazy,” 22, of El Salvador. (not arrested)
Luis Funes-Rivera a/k/a “Demonio,” 20, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Jorge Garcia a/k/a “Shorty,” 25, of Charlotte. (arrested)
Cesar Garcia-Perez a/k/a “Vikingo,” 35, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Saul Gavidia a/k/a “Scrappy,” 20, of Landis, N.C. (arrested)
William Gavidia a/k/a “Duro,” 23, of Kannapolis, N.C. (arrested)
Raul Guardado a/k/a “Guanaco,” 42, of Charlotte. (arrested)
Neris Gutierrez a/k/a “Oso” or “Furioso,” 26, of Guatemala. (not arrested)
Angel Hernandez a/k/a “Taz” or “Magic,” 24, of Rock Hill, S.C. (arrested)
Jose Manuel Linares a/k/a “Chepito,” 21, of Charlotte. (arrested)
Rene Lopez-Ventura a/k/a “Mafioso,” 32, of Charlotte. (arrested)
Jose Moran-Celis a/k/a “Lil Silent,” 20, of Charlotte. (arrested)
Daniel Navarro a/k/a “Lunatico,” 21, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Jonathan Noble a/k/a “Ghost,” 22, of Charlotte. (arrested)
Luis Ordonez-Vega a/k/a “Big Boy,” 36, of Concord, N.C. (in state custody)
Christian Pena a/k/a “Pitbull,” 19, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Jorge Perez a/k/a “JP Bukie,” 30, of Charlotte. (arrested)
Victor Pineda a/k/a “Chele,” 23, of Charlotte. (arrested)
Rosendo Rivas a/k/a “Jester,” or “Demonio” or “Nene” 24, of Rock Hill. (in state custody)
Fec Rodriguez-Vareal a/k/a “Chelito,” 28, of Charlotte. (arrested)
Salvador Ruiz a/k/a “Chava,” 26, of Kannapolis. (not arrested)
Jorge Sosa a/k/a “Koki” or “Loco,” 23, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Oscar Trejo a/k/a “Trigger” or “Maliente,” 23, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Jaime Turcios a/k/a “Pitufo” or “Smurf,” 24, of Charlotte. (arrested)
Jose Vasquez a/k/a “Muneco,” 26, of El Salvador. (arrested)
Marlon Vasquez-Maldonado a/k/a “Gangster,” 23, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Albert Vela-Garcia a/k/a “Conejo,” 25, of Landis. (arrested)
Luis Villalta a/k/a “Little Psycho,” 25, of El Salvador. (not arrested)
Alexis Villalta-Morales a/k/a “Rikichi,” 23, of Charlotte. (in state custody)
Miguel Zelaya a/k/a “Most Wanted,” 19, of Charlotte. (in state custody)