Leader of MS-13 Gang Has Been Sentenced for Racketeering Conspiracy

Maryland Man Sentenced for Racketeering Conspiracy

Sentenced to 28 Years for Involvement with MS-13 Gang

A Maryland man has received a 28-year prison sentence for his role in a racketeering conspiracy, which included murder, connected to the notorious La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang.

Leadership Role in Weedams Locos Salvatrucha (WLS)

Brayan Alexander Torres, also known as Spooky, aged 29 and hailing from Adelphi, served as the leader, referred to as the “First Word,” of Weedams Locos Salvatrucha (WLS), a faction of MS-13 primarily active in Adelphi. MS-13, an international criminal organization, primarily comprises individuals from El Salvador or their descendants, with members operating across the United States. The gang’s structure includes smaller groups known as “cliques” operating in specific cities or regions. A key rule within MS-13 mandates members to attack and eliminate rival gang members, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible. Participation in attacks on rival gangs earns members promotions and improved status within the organization, often directed by MS-13 leadership.

Murder Plot and Cover-Up

On August 8, 2020, Torres, along with other WLS members, including Franklyn Edgardo Sanchez, plotted the murder of Victim 4, who was suspected of cooperating with law enforcement and owed a debt to Sanchez. During the plot, Sanchez was armed with a revolver, and Torres provided another MS-13 member with a revolver, instructing them to fire the first shots when Victim 4 arrived. Both Sanchez and the other MS-13 member fired multiple shots at Victim 4. After the victim fell, Sanchez pistol-whipped and stabbed him, while Torres used a screwdriver to stab Victim 4. The group then dragged Victim 4’s body to a stream and abandoned it. To avoid leaving DNA evidence and obstruct the investigation, Torres ordered other WLS members to bring shovels and bury the body. Law enforcement later discovered the victim’s body with a gunshot wound to the head.

Foiled Kidnapping and Murder Plot

On June 5, 2020, Torres conspired with other MS-13 members to kidnap and murder a female member of the rival 18th Street gang. Torres and another member directed gang subordinates to gather at a house with firearms for the planned murder, while another MS-13 associate monitored the intended victim, known as Victim 5, at a separate location. However, the plan was interrupted by the police.

Extortion and Money Laundering

Torres orchestrated extortion payments, known as “rents,” from at least two victims on behalf of WLS. Victims complied with these demands out of fear, as WLS members had threatened them with guns or baseball bats. Additionally, Torres was involved in money laundering by transferring gang funds obtained through extortion to MS-13 members and associates in El Salvador. He also accepted rent payments collected from brothels with the intention of using the funds to further MS-13’s illegal activities, including extortion.

Sentences for Co-Conspirators

Previously, Sanchez, Hernan Yanes-Rivera, and Rivas Rodriguez received sentences of 28 years, 22 years, and 16 years in prison, respectively, for their roles in the racketeering conspiracy.

Announcement by Officials

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland, Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the FBI Baltimore Field Office, Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore, and Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department jointly announced the sentencing.

Investigative Collaboration

The FBI, HSI, and Prince George’s County Police Department conducted the investigation, with assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and the Montgomery County Police Department.

Legal Prosecution

Trial Attorney Christopher Taylor of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Crespo for the District of Maryland prosecuted the case.

Part of Project Safe Neighborhoods and OCDETF Investigation

This case falls within the framework of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program designed to unite law enforcement at all levels and communities to reduce violent crime and gun violence, making neighborhoods safer. The Department’s violent crime reduction strategy, launched on May 26, 2021, strengthens PSN by emphasizing principles such as building trust and legitimacy in communities, supporting violence prevention by community-based organizations, setting focused enforcement priorities, and measuring outcomes.

Additionally, this case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF aims to identify, disrupt, and dismantle high-level criminal organizations posing a threat to the United States, employing a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Encouraging Tips to Law Enforcement

Individuals with information about MS-13 are encouraged to provide tips to law enforcement. The FBI and HSI have nationwide tiplines available for reporting information. The FBI can be reached at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), and HSI can be reached at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.