Federal prosecutors believe they have stopped the deadly rampage of an international street gang based in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties that had the credo “rape, kill, control.”
In a four-week trial that ended Monday, four local leaders of the MS-13 gang were convicted for key roles in a murderous crime spree dating back to 2006.
Acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said the tireless work of investigators and prosecutors paid off.
All four, who are due to be sentenced later, “will be removed from the streets they have terrorized,” Raman said.
Miguel Alvarado-Linares, Ernesto Escobar and Dimas Alfaro-Granados were found guilty of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organziations (RICO) law involving murder and committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering.
A fourth man, Jairo Reyna-Ozuna, was convicted of RICO conspiracy.
“They spread fear throughout the community by killing suspected rival gang members and others who crossed their paths,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.
The gang, originally from El Salvador, set up Atlanta-area operations in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, marking their home turf with murders, attempted murders, armed robberies and drug sales, court, prosecutors said.
Alvarado-Linares, also known as “Joker,” was intricately involved in crimes designed to further the gang’s reputations, investigators said.
The execution-style shooting death of Lal Ko in October 2006 was ordered by Alvarado-Linares and carried out by him, Alfaro-Granados and another gang member, prosecutors said.
Alvarado-Linares, 24, thought the 19-year-old Ko had snitched on gang members to the police, court officials said.
Alfaro-Granados, 30, or “Toro,” ordered an MS-13 member to kill a rival gang member as a condition for being allowed to leave the MS-13 gang, prosecutors said.
On Christmas Eve 2006, following the orders of Alfaro-Granados and Alvarado-Linares, the gang member fired at a car on Georgia 316. Believing the car was carrying rivals, he killed the passenger, 20-year-old Angel Gonzalez, court officials said.
At an apartment complex a week later, Alvarado-Linares exchanged insults with and flashed his gang signs at a pair of members of the rival SUR-13 gang, then shot both men, prosecutors said.
In August 2007, Escobar – a 30-year-old also known as “Pink Panther” – scuffled with a pair of teens at a Gwinnett County Shell gas station. Escobar consulted with then-leader Reyna-Ozuna, also known as “Flaco,” prosecutors said.
Reyna-Ozuna, 28, gave Escobar a handgun to use to retaliate, prosecutors said.
Escobar returned to the gas station and shot one of the teens, 16-year-old David Hernandez, as he worked painting lines in the parking lot, authorities said.
Prosecutors said Pablo Archila-Baires, 15, was killed in October 2007 when Alvarado-Linares encountered the teen in Gwinnett County and, suspecting the teen of being the member of the 18th Street gang, fired a shotgun at the teen.
More than 75 MS-13 members were arrested , charged and/or deported to their native Honduras and El Salvador as a result of the long-ranging and still-ongoing investigation that involved the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Marshals, Gwinnett County Sheriff’s deputies and police from Gwinnett County, DeKalb County, Norcross and Chamblee.
The four men, who all live in Gwinnett County, will be sentenced at a later date. Escobar, Alvarado-Linares and Alfaro-Granados each face a mandatory life sentence and additional federal prison time, court officials said.
Reyna-Ozuna faces up to 20 years in federal prison, authorities said.
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