News Release, U.S. States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland
Faces a Mandatory Sentence of Life in Federal Prison
Baltimore, Maryland – A federal jury convicted Juan Carlos Sandoval-Rodriguez, a/k/a “Picaro,” “El Pastor,” and “Gasper,” age 21, of Annapolis, Maryland, of murder in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, in connection with his participation in the activities of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. The verdict was returned late on October 31, 2019.
The guilty verdict was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge John Eisert of Homeland Security Investigations-Baltimore Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Rob Cekada of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Baltimore Field Division; Police Chief Timothy J. Altomare of the Anne Arundel County Police Department; and Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess.
“The MS-13 gang uses violence, extortion, and intimidation to terrorize their communities, both here in the U.S. and abroad. The gang’s chilling motto is ‘Mata, viola, controla,’ or ‘kill, rape, and control.’ This MS-13 member showed his allegiance to the gang through murder. Now he faces a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison. His conviction for murder and our ongoing work with our law enforcement partners to bring other gang members to justice demonstrates our unflagging commitment to eliminate MS-13 and its campaign of wanton violence,” said United States Attorney Hur. “We will continue to root out and prosecute violent gang members to obtain justice for their victims.”
“This individual’s crime is yet another example of the terror and violence that criminal gangs like MS-13 inflict upon our communities,” said HSI Baltimore Special Agent in Charge John Eisert. “HSI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate and dismantle these gangs to make our streets safer.”
MS-13 is a national and transnational gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County, Montgomery County and Frederick County, Maryland. In Maryland, MS-13 cliques often work cooperatively to engage in criminal activity and to assist one another in avoiding detection by law enforcement. These cliques include the Hempstead Locos Salvatrucha (HLS or Hempstead), Fulton Locos Salvatruchs (FLS or Fulton), and Langley Park Salvatrucha (LPS), among others. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the gang. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible.
According to the evidence presented at his 9-day trial, from at least 2015 through 2017, Sandoval-Rodriguez was a member and associate of the Fulton clique. As a member of the MS-13 gang, Sandoval-Rodriguez participated in racketeering activities including drug trafficking, extortion, and murder.
The evidence at trial proved that Sandoval-Rodriguez and other MS-13 members and associates conspired to murder an individual whom they believed to be a rival gang member. Specifically, on March 11, 2016, Sandoval-Rodriguez lured the victim to a park in Annapolis, with the intent to murder the victim. Once the victim arrived at the park, members of the gang struck the victim on the head with a branch or stick. Sandoval-Rodriguez and the other members and associates of MS-13 then stabbed the victim repeatedly, killing the victim. The members and associates of MS-13 then buried the victim in a shallow grave in the park. Sandoval-Rodriguez and his co-conspirators murdered the victim in Annapolis, for the purpose of gaining entrance to, maintaining, and increasing their position in MS-13.
As a result of his conviction for murder in aid of racketeering, Sandoval-Rodriguez faces a mandatory life sentence. Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar has not yet scheduled sentencing.
Co-defendants Marlon Cruz-Flores, a/k/a “Little S,” age 22; Fermin Gomez-Jimenez, age 20; and David Diaz-Alvarado, age 21; all of Annapolis, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the racketeering enterprise. The other defendants are awaiting sentencing. All of the defendants are detained.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur and AAG Benczkowski commended HSI, the ATF, the Anne Arundel County Police Department, and the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office. Mr. Hur and Mr. Benczkowski thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Stendig, Trial Attorney Matthew Hoff of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Samantha Mildenberg, a cross-designated Anne Arundel County Assistant State’s Attorney, who are prosecuting this case.