MS-13 gang member gets life in prison

A member of a violent international street gang was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for his role in a killing in metro Atlanta.

Remberto “Pitufo” Argueta, a member of MS-13 with roots in Latin America and the United States, was sentenced for his part in a murder and attempted murders against rival gangs, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said. MS-13, which has operated in Georgia at least since 2005, conducted armed robberies and defended its territory from rival gangs, Yates said.

“Argueta helped MS-13 live up to its reputation as a ruthless, violent gang that spread fear throughout the community,” Yates said. “He displayed a callous disregard for human life and has fittingly earned his place behind prison walls for the remainder of his life.”

Argueta, 27, of Lilburn, was convicted by a federal jury nearly 12 months ago for his role in the crimes. Federal authorities had targeted MS-13 in Atlanta in part because of its reputation for violence.

“This sentencing of a hardened MS-13 gang member is one of a series of convictions and sentences of members of this gang known for their violence in the northern metro Atlanta area,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.

MS-13 staked out Gwinnett and DeKalb counties as their home territory in metro Atlanta, Yates said. Argueta and his associates got into a shootout during a robbery of Arpolonio Rios-Jarquin, a suspected drug dealer, at a hotel in April 2007, authorities said. Rios-Jarquin died from multiple gunshots wounds. Surveillance video showed one MS-13 member picked up Rios-Jarquin’s weapon, which he later showed off as a trophy, according to federal authorities.

Later that year in October, several MS-13 members, including Argueta, were at a Gwinnett apartment complex when they spotted Christian Escobar and Jose Garcia-Barajas, who the MS-13 crew suspected of being rival gang members.

When Escobar confirmed they were members of the rival 18th Street gang, Argueta said, “You’re going to die,” federal authorities said. Argueta pulled out a handgun and shot Escobar in the back and Garcia-Barajas in the hip and arm. Several of his shots went wildly into other apartments, one hitting the headrest of an arm chair an elderly woman had just vacated, federal authorities said. She later testified against the gang members.

Argueta’s trial last November lasted three weeks. A jury convicted him of RICO conspiracy— a racketeering charge — involving murder and violent crime.

Parole has been abolished in the federal system.

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