As part of a multi-agency operation, more than 20 individuals associated with Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) were arrested in Mendota and Los Angeles, California on federal and state charges in connection with their gang activities, including assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.
Additionally, two federal indictments were unsealed today: one charging two MS-13 members with kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering and another charging three MS-13 gang members with conspiracy and assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering.
The investigation leading to yesterday’s arrests began following reports that MS-13 had established a presence in Fresno County, California. The investigation centered in and around the City of Mendota, a Central Valley town 35 miles west of Fresno. Investigators found evidence of broad criminal activity, including murder, assault, firearms possession and drug trafficking activity.
“MS-13 is a brutal transnational criminal organization that has wreaked havoc in communities across the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.
“The gang engages in indiscriminate and senseless acts of violence, as demonstrated by the charges announced today, which allege murder, attempted murder, and drug trafficking in the State of California. Dismantling MS-13 and other violent gangs that terrorize our streets will remain a top priority of the Department of Justice.
Today’s announcement is the result of comprehensive and coordinated federal, state, and local law enforcement action, and I commend the Eastern District of California and all of our partners for their hard work on this case. It is precisely this kind of coordinated effort that allows us to most effectively protect our communities and hold MS-13 members accountable for their heinous crimes.”
“Criminal enterprises like MS-13 will not be tolerated in any of our towns, no matter how small.”
The first federal charges filed as a result of the investigation were filed in January but were not unsealed until today. That indictment alleges that on Dec. 18, 2017, two MS-13 gang members operating out of Mendota – Israel Rivas Gomez and John Doe, aka, “Marcos Castro,” “Seco,” “Calakas,” and “Flaco,” – kidnapped and murdered a man in Fresno County in furtherance of MS-13’s criminal gang enterprise.
Another indictment filed in April and unsealed today alleges that on May 5, 2017, Luis Reynaldo Reyes Castillo, aka “Molesto,” Jose Audon Reyes Barrera, aka “Calacas,” and Nilson Israel Reyes Mendoza, committed an assault with dangerous weapons for the purpose of maintaining MS-13’s presence in the community and to gain status within MS-13.
Several other MS-13 gang members were arrested yesterday based on a complaint filed this week and unsealed today. The complaint charges 16 individuals affiliated with MS-13 in Fresno County with various crimes, including two separate, gang-related assaults and drug trafficking activity to support the gang.
Those documents allege that on Aug. 12, Lorenzo Amador, aka Catracho, along with two others, stabbed a rival gang member in the back at an intersection in Mendota. The victim was transported to the hospital, underwent surgery, and survived.
Court documents also allege that on May 14, Denis Barrera-Palma, aka Gunner, Ever Membreno, aka Canecho, and Edgar Torres-Amador, participated in a gang-related assault of a man walking near an elementary school, which ended after school employees arrived on the scene while one gang member beat the victim with a metal pipe.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that between May 2017 and August 2018, 16 members of the MS-13 enterprise participated in a drug trafficking conspiracy in both Fresno County and Los Angeles. These defendants allegedly obtained, sold, and profited from street level drug dealing, and used the proceeds to further MS-13’s criminal objectives.
As part of this operation, 19 federal and four state search warrants were served in Mendota, Kerman, and Los Angeles. Additionally, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation conducted searches of 37 cells in 11 state prisons in California on individuals related to this investigation. Among the items seized were cellphones, drugs and weapons.
Amongst the 21 charged federally include:
- Henry Castro aka “Marcos,” 20, of Mendota, is charged with kidnapping and murder;
- Israel Rivas Gomez, aka “Pirra,” 23, of Mendota, is charged with kidnapping and murder;
- Ever Membreno, aka, “Canecho,” 18, of Mendota, is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon – a pipe and drug conspiracy;
- Edgar Torres-Amador, 21, of Mendota, is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon – a pipe;
- Lorenzo Amador, aka, “Catracho,” 20, of Mendota, is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon – a stabbing instrument and drug conspiracy;
- Denis Barrera-Palma, aka “Gunner,” 24, of Mendota, is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon – a pipe and drug conspiracy;
- Luis Reyes, aka Molesto, 24, of Mendota, is charged with conspiracy to commit and commission of assault with a dangerous weapon;
- Jose Audon Reyes-Barrera, 21, of Mendota, is charged with conspiracy to commit and commission of assault with a dangerous weapon;
- Nelson Hernandez, 20, of Mendota, is charged with conspiracy to commit and commission of assault with a dangerous weapon;
- Mario Garcia-Villanueva, aka “Ton,” 31, of Mendota, is charged with drug conspiracy;
- Francisco Lizano, aka, “Javi,” and “Activo,” 24, of Mendota, is charged with drug conspiracy;
- Jefferson Guevara, aka “Chino,” 19, of Los Angeles, is charged with drug conspiracy;
- Jose Wilson Navarette-Mendez, aka “Wilson,” 21, of Mendota, is charged with drug conspiracy;
- Denis Alfaro-Torres, aka Payin, 22, of Mendota, is charged with drug conspiracy;
- Santos Bonilla, aka Cuervo, 26, of Mendota, is charged with drug conspiracy;
- Henry Bonilla, aka “Repollo” and “Repollin,” 18, of Mendota, is charged with drug conspiracy;
- Marvin Villegas-Segovia, aka, “Chaparro,” 21, of Mendota, is charged with drug conspiracy;
- Christian Hidalgo, aka “Guero,” “Hero,” “Werito,” and “White Boy, “21, of Mendota, is charged with drug conspiracy;
- Brenda Yajaira Morales, aka “Yari,” 25, of Mendota, is charged with drug conspiracy;
- Claudia Lizaola, aka “Maniaka,” 39, of San Bernardino, is charged with drug conspiracy; and
- Oscar Reyes, aka “Tamagas,” 29, of Mendota, is charged with drug conspiracy.
Six additional MS-13 members were charged with state crimes.
Assisting in the arrests were the U.S. Marshals Service; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Clovis Police Department.
President Donald Trump has declared war on these vicious gangs that have been taking over and festering in various parts of the country for decades now. They have engaged in terror campaigns, intimidating entire neighborhoods, kidnapping, raping, stealing, and killing locals just to further their gang.
Looks like another promise kept. Thank you Donald Trump and our amazing law enforcement for making our streets safer! California has a totally out of control crime rate and our own state leaders are engaged in the behavior that allows these gangs to flourish. It’s time for a change. Vote Republican this November and lets clean up our state!