Making Immigration Happen
Chicago Woman Arrested for Selling Fraudulent Identity Documents to Illegal Aliens
A woman was arrested Wednesday, February 13, 2013, on charges she allegedly sold fraudulent identity documents to illegal aliens. These charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigra

Tag Archives: gang activity

MS-13 Gang Members Arrested by Operation Community Shield

Two members of the Mara Salvatrucha aka MS-13 gang, Jose Rodas-Alvarado aka Mini, and Roni Arriola-Palma aka Maniaco, were arrested Monday, January 28, 2013, on charges of first- and second-degree attempted murder, kidnapping, first- and second-degree assault, theft, and reckless endangerment following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Prince George’s County Police Department and Prince George’s County Sheriff’s office.

According to the arrest warrant, on Jan. 14, 2011, Rodas-Alvarado and Arriola-Palma along with several other MS-13 gang members attacked and forced a male victim into a minivan before physically assaulting him while in the 5800 block of 10th Place in Hyattsville, Md. The suspects allegedly undressed and threw the male victim from the van, dragging him into a wooded area, where they began stabbing him with knives. All suspects subsequently fled the scene.

HSI special agents and Sheriff Deputies investigating the whereabouts of Rodas-Alvarado and Arriola-Palma were led to the 6000 block of 20th Avenue in Hyattsville, Md.where Rodas-Alvarado was taken into custody and transported to the County Police Criminal Investigations Division.

HSI special agents and Sheriff Deputies located Arriola-Prima in the 1800 block of L Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.where he was taken into custody after a brief foot chase. He was transported to the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, where he will await extradition to Prince George’s County,Md.

This investigation was part of HSI’s Operation Community Shield initiative. Operation Community Shield partners with existing federal, state and local anti-gang efforts to identify violent street gangs and develop intelligence on gang members and associates, gang criminal activities and international movements to arrest, prosecute, imprison and, or deport transnational gang members. HSI’s National Gang Unit’s goal is to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.

Since the inception of Operation Community Shield in February 2005, HSI special agents working in conjunction with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide have arrested more than 29,366 street gang members and associates linked to more than 2,300 different gangs. At least 40 percent of those arrested had a violent criminal history. More than 374 of those arrested were gang leaders and more than 4,163 were MS-13 gang members or associates. Through this initiative nationally, HSI has seized 4,137 firearms.

The case is being prosecuted by the Prince George’s County States Attorney Office.

36 Indicted for Drug Trafficking, Gang Involvement

Thirty-six individuals – including two top leaders and six upper-level managers – have been indicted as alleged participants in a major narcotics network with ties to the Ñetas street gang. The charges stem from an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, working collaboratively with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The indictment stems from Operation Billboard, an investigation which revealed the dealing of large quantities of heroin in Camden, N.J.

Most of the defendants were arrested May 30, 2012, when law enforcement took down this criminal organization. The indictment was returned Jan. 9, 2013, but sealed until Friday, January 11, 2013, pending efforts to arrest additional defendants.

The alleged senior leaders of the narcotics network include Noel Gonzalez, aka “Noel Ripoll,” 43, of Camden, a reputed member of the Ñetas; and his alleged partner Michael Rivera, aka “Bute,” 29, of Camden. Both are charged with leading a narcotics trafficking network, which carries a possible sentence of life in prison.

The investigation has revealed that Gonzalez and Rivera ran a large-scale drug distribution network that was dealing up to tens of thousands of dollars in heroin per week. In addition to Gonzalez and Rivera, the leadership of the network includes other members of the Ñetas and Latin Kings street gangs. The network allegedly possessed guns and employed violence to protect its territory.

The 39-count indictment charges all 36 defendants with first-degree racketeering and second-degree conspiracy. The racketeering charge carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.

Twenty-five defendants are charged with first-degree distribution of narcotics and/or first-degree possession of narcotics with the intent to distribute. They face 10 to 20 years in prison on those charges.

Rivera is also charged with possession of a handgun as a convicted felon, which carries a mandatory sentence of five years in prison. Many defendants also face various other drug charges.

“The assault on our communities by criminal drug trafficking organizations must end,” said Andrew McLees, special agent in charge of HSI Newark. “HSI and our law enforcement partners will continue to use our collective resources to bring these individuals to justice.”

“We sent investigators into the area surrounding 4th and Royden Streets because it has been a hotbed of violence, including daytime shootings,” said New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa. “By identifying this large, well-organized criminal enterprise and targeting the organization from top to bottom with a first-degree racketeering indictment, we’re taking strong aim at the drug dealing that is fueling violence and destroying the lives of residents in this section of Camden. These defendants will face lengthy prison sentences without parole if convicted of the charges against them.”

“This indictment is a testament to the strong working relationships we have forged with the Camden Police Department, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and our other law enforcement partners to aggressively investigate drug and weapons trafficking in the city,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor, New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. “With these proactive investigations, we seek to have a larger impact in critical sectors of Camden, in order to assist local and county law enforcement in their day-to-day efforts to prevent violence and solve crimes.”

A number of the defendants have been charged in the past with violent crimes or weapons offenses. It is alleged that the narcotics network led by Gonzalez and Rivera supplied and controlled at least four open-air drug “sets” dealing heroin.

The network also allegedly conducted drug deals at numerous locations in the surrounding area. The network allegedly sold heroin stamped with brand names that included “A+,” “Major League,” “Hot Party,” “El Tiger” and “Ice Cream.”

The network had a hierarchy with well-defined roles, including “case workers,” “set managers” and “trappers.” Case workers, also called “runners,” served as upper-level managers, coordinating the enterprise’s drug sales while on duty. They were responsible for handing out bundles of heroin to the lower-level set managers and trappers, and returning proceeds from the drug sales to Gonzalez and Rivera. They provided a layer of insulation for the leaders, working near but not at the set locations where street-level transactions were conducted.

Other law enforcement agencies assisting in the investigation include: Camden Police Department, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and New Jersey State Police. Assistance was also provided by the Audubon Police Department and the Haddon Township Police Department.

MS-13 Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Scheme that Resulted in Two Murders

Dennis L. Gil-Bernardez, an MS-13 member who also is known as Pando, pled guilty Friday, December 7, 2012, to taking part in a federal racketeering conspiracy that was responsible for numerous crimes, including two murders, in the Washington, D.C., region. The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. of the District of Columbia, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

Gil-Bernardez, 36, pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Judge Rosemary M. Collyer sentenced him to 76 years in prison. The sentence will run concurrently with an 80-year prison term that Gil-Bernardez already is serving in another gang-related case in Virginia.

The defendant was among a group of MS-13 members indicted in November 2011. As part of his plea, he admitted that he was in MS-13’s Normandie clique, and that, after consulting with an incarcerated member of MS-13 in El Salvador, he ordered the murder of Louis Membreno-Zelaya, which was committed by other MS-13 members. Membreno-Zelaya, 27, was found, stabbed to death, on Nov. 6, 2008, in Northwest Washington.

In his plea, Gil-Bernardez admitted that MS-13 is a transnational criminal street gang with a presence in at least 20 states and the District of Columbia, as well as many Central American countries, including El Salvador and Honduras, which is Gil-Bernardez’s country of origin. According to court documents, members of MS-13 use violence and intimidation to protect the gang and enhance its reputation. The gang is involved in murder, attempted murder, robbery, extortion and obstructing justice through the intimidation and threatening of witnesses.

In addition to ordering the murder of Membreno-Zelaya, Gil-Bernardez also admitted today to shooting a person whom he believed to be a rival gang member in April 2008. The victim was shot five times and hospitalized for a week after undergoing life-saving surgery.

Finally, Gil-Bernardez admitted to murdering Luis Chavez-Ponce, 22, July 29, 2008, in Riverdale Park, Md., believing Chavez-Ponce to be a rival gang member. Gil-Bernardez stopped one of the other MS-13 members from chasing after the victim, who was on a bicycle. Gil-Bernardez chased Chavez-Ponce around the corner of a building and fired several shots, killing him.

The gun which Gil-Bernardez used in the murder of Chavez-Ponce was determined to be the same weapon used in the shooting of three people in Reston, Va., in October 2008, to which Gil-Bernardez also admitted. His 80-year sentence in Virginia is a result of those crimes, which were prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. This latest plea is one of several by MS-13 members in recent months in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The prosecution grew out of the efforts of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a multi-agency team that conducts comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the nationwide program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.

This case was investigated by ICE, MPD, Prince George’s County Police Department, Montgomery County Police Department and Fairfax County Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Laura Gwinn, of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nihar R. Mohanty and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill O’Malley.

MS-13 Gang Officially Designated a Transnational Criminal Organization by HSI

On Thursday, October 11, 2012, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) with the assistance of the Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) designated the Latin American gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). This group is being designated by Treasury pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13581, which targets significant TCOs and their supporters. E.O. 13581 is a key part of the National Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime.

Using the authority provided in E.O. 13581, Treasury is targeting the economic power of MS-13 as a transnational criminal network – and those individuals and entities who work with them, enable them and support them – by freezing any assets those persons may have within U.S. jurisdiction. Any property or property interests in the U.S., or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which these targets have an interest are blocked, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

“This designation allows us to strike at the financial heart of MS-13 and is a powerful weapon in our fight to dismantle one of the most violent, transnational criminal organizations operating today,” said ICE Director John Morton. “History has proven that we can successfully take down organized crime groups when we combine sophisticated investigative techniques with tough street level enforcement, cutting off cash flows, contraband and collaborators to ensure they no longer find safe haven in our communities.”

“MS-13 is an extremely violent and dangerous gang responsible for a multitude of crimes that directly threaten the welfare and security of U.S. citizens, as well as countries throughout Central America,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen stated. “This action positions us to target the associates and financial networks supporting MS-13, and gives law enforcement an additional tool in its efforts to disrupt MS-13’s activities.”

MS-13 is being designated for its involvement in serious criminal activities, including drug trafficking, human smuggling and sex trafficking, murder and violence, racketeering, and immigration offenses. MS-13, consisting of at least 30,000 members and present in at least five countries, including the United States, is one of the most dangerous criminal gangs in the world today. MS-13 violently protects its illicit interests through murder, murder for hire, kidnapping, blackmail, extortion and assassination. MS-13’s creed is exemplified by one of its mottos, “mata, roba, viola, controla,” which translates in sum and substance to “kill, steal, rape, control.” In addition, MS-13 members have been responsible for numerous killings within the United States.

The HSI National Gang Unit will take the law enforcement lead, under this MS-13 enforcement effort dubbed, “Operation Barbed Wire.” The National Gang Unit removes gang members from our neighborhoods and, when appropriate, from the United States. In 2005, HSI initiated Operation Community Shield, an international law enforcement initiative to enhance U.S. public safety. Operation Community Shield partners with existing federal, state and local anti-gang efforts to identify violent street gangs and develop intelligence on gang members and associates, gang criminal activities and international movements, to arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members as well as to suppress violence and prosecute criminal enterprises. The National Gang Unit’s goal is to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities. Since 2006, HSI has arrested 4,078 MS-13 gang members and, partnering with the U.S. Department of Justice, has successfully brought to indictment numerous MS-13 racketeering investigations in Washington, D.C., Virginia, New York, San Francisco, Houston, and Atlanta.

MS-13 is the first transnational criminal street gang designated as a TCO. Others TCOs include the The Brothers’ Circle, Camorra, Yakuza, and Los Zetas in the United States.

ICE and ERO Announce New Deportation Initiative

 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Mexican Ministry of the Interior announced Tuesday, October 2, 2012, the beginning of the Interior Repatriation Initiative (IRI), a new pilot to provide humane, safe and orderly repatriation of Mexican nationals to the interior of Mexico and ultimately to their hometowns, instead of returning them to towns on the U.S.-Mexico border.

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) will provide air transportation via charter aircraft to Mexican nationals who emigrated from the interior of Mexico. Upon arrival in Mexico City, the Government of Mexico will provide them transportation to their places of origin. This initiative will allow the Government of Mexico to assist returning Mexican nationals in safely reintegrating into their communities.

“IRI reflects our commitment and ongoing bilateral effort with the government of Mexico to ensure strong, humane and effective enforcement of both nations’ immigration laws,” said ICE Director John Morton. “This initiative will better ensure that individuals repatriated to Mexico are removed in circumstances that are safe and controlled.”

Gustavo Mohar Betancourt, Undersecretary of Mexico’s population, migration and religious affairs said, “This initiative aims to collaborate and fully support border state authorities by reducing the number of Mexican nationals who are repatriated to the border region. The newly repatriated, often with no means to return home, are susceptible to becoming a part of criminal organizations as a means of survival.”

The IRI will include Mexican nationals pending removal from all areas of the United States. Historically, a significant number of individuals are not from the northern border towns to which they are repatriated, leaving them in communities where they have no ties or family support. Removing Mexican nationals to the interior of Mexico is part of an effort to reduce repeat attempts to illegally enter the United States, avoid the loss of human life, and minimize the potential for exploitation of illegal migrants by human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as other criminal organizations.

Individuals who participate in the pilot initiative are transferred from across the United States to the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M., before departure on an IRI flight.

The first repatriation flight of 131 Mexican nationals departed El Paso International Airport Tuesday, Oct. 2 and flights are scheduled to continue this year through to Nov. 29. Mexican nationals participating in IRI are removed on charter flights via the ICE ERO Air Operations (IAO) Unit. Headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., IAO has supported ERO since 2006 by providing air transportation and removal coordination services to ERO field offices nationwide. Staffed by ERO officers, these air charters enable the agency to repatriate large groups of deportees in an efficient, expeditious and humane manner.

ICE Target Operation Arrests 28 Criminal Aliens in Wisconsin

As part of U.S.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) ongoing commitment to prioritizing the  removal of criminal aliens and egregious immigration law violators, 28 convicted  criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and immigration violators were arrested during  a five-day operation in northeastern Wisconsin which ended Tuesday, August 21, 2012.

This operation was  conducted by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Fugitive Operations teams in Milwaukee.

Of the 28 arrested, 26 had prior convictions for crimes, such as: sexually assaulting a minor, theft, possessing cocaine, domestic abuse, carrying a concealed weapon, battery, criminal trespass and drunken driving. Four of the 28 were immigration fugitives who had been previously ordered to leave the country but failed to depart; all of those are convicted criminals in addition to having outstanding deportation orders. Four of the 28 – also all convicted criminals – had been previously deported and illegally re-entered the United States, which is a felony.

Following is the  nationality breakdown of the 27 men and one woman arrested: Mexico (23), Laos (3) and Honduras (2). The arrests were made in the following northeast Wisconsin communities: Appleton (3), Bailey’s Harbor (1), Casco (4), Fond de Lac (1), Gillette (1),  Green Bay (6), Manitowoc (5), New London (1), Oshkosh (1), Reedsville (1), Sheboygan (2), Two Rivers (1) and Wrightstown (1).

Following are summaries of two individuals arrested during this operation:

  • A 25-year-old Laotian national was previously convicted of two counts of sexually assaulting a minor, fleeing an officer and theft. He was arrested Aug. 17 in Oshkosh and is currently in ICE custody pending removal proceedings.
  • A 21-year-old Mexican national has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions for carrying a concealed weapon, battery using a dangerous weapon, criminal damage to property, domestic abuse and resisting law enforcement. He was arrested Aug. 21 in Sheboygan and remains in ICE custody pending removal proceedings.

“The  results of this targeted enforcement operation underscore ICE’s ongoing commitment to strengthening and protecting public safety,” said Ricardo Wong, field office director of ERO Chicago. “By focusing our efforts on arresting and removing convicted criminal aliens, we immediately improve the safety of our communities.”

These  arrests were coordinated with ICE’s National Fugitive Operations Program, which is responsible for investigating, locating, arresting and removing at-large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives — aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation handed down by federal  immigration courts. ICE’s Fugitive Operations teams give top priority to cases involving aliens who pose a threat to national security and public safety, including members of transnational street gangs and child sex offenders.

Project Nefarious Arrests Over 600 Gang Members

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations  (HSI) announced Wednesday, April 25, the arrests of 637 gang members and associates from 168 different gangs during Project Nefarious, an HSI-led operation executed in 150 U.S. cities and Honduras targeting transnational street gangs, prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs involved with human smuggling and trafficking organizations (HSTOs).

Project Nefarious began in February 2012 with threat assessments, intelligence gathering, information sharing and target identification, which resulted in enforcement operations from April 9 to April 21. Through Project Nefarious, HSI special agents worked side-by-side with 148 federal, state, local and international law enforcement partners to apprehend individuals from 28 gangs affiliated with HSTOs. More than 40 percent of those gang members or associates arrested during this operation were affiliated with gangs tied to HSTOs.

“The goal of Project Nefarious was to identify, locate, arrest, prosecute and remove gang members and associates affiliated with human smuggling and trafficking organizations,” said HSI Executive Associate Director James Dinkins. “By ridding our streets of 637 gang members and associates, we are putting a dent in the violence these transnational criminal street gangs bring to our communities.”

The impetus for Project Nefarious was the U.S. Department of Justice, National Gang Intelligence Center, National Gang Threat Assessment 2011 report, which identified gangs who are progressively becoming involved with human smuggling and trafficking. The report classified numerous gangs as exceedingly dangerous due to their involvement with
cross-border criminal activity linked to human smuggling and trafficking.

Transnational criminal street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-national members and are frequently involved in human smuggling and trafficking; narcotics smuggling and distribution; identity theft and benefit fraud; money laundering and bulk cash smuggling; weapons smuggling and arms trafficking; cyber crimes; export violations and other crimes with a nexus to the border.

Of the 637 gang members or associates arrested;

  • 479 were charged with criminal offenses,
  • 158 were administrative arrests,
  • 210 had violent criminal histories,
  • 10 were wanted for murder, and
  • 290 were foreign nationals.

In addition to the 637 arrests, 155 individuals were arrested for federal and state criminal violations, or administrative immigration violations. Of the 155, 117 were charged with criminal offenses, 58 had violent criminal histories, 38 were administrative arrests and 69 were foreign nationals. In addition to the arrests, during the operation special agents seized 52 firearms, 5,462.6 pounds of marijuana, 6.6 pounds of cocaine, $201,437 in U.S. currency and 14 vehicles.

Arrests during Project Nefarious included:

  • Carlos Alexander Melgar-Andrede, 22, an El Salvadoran national and associate of MS-13 was arrested inLos AngelesCounty on rape charges.
  • Richard Paul Gonzales, 40, a U.S. citizen and member of the Mexikanemi, also
    known as the Mexican Mafia gang, was arrested in Bexar County, Texas, for indecent exposure to minors and adults. His criminal convictions include
    aggravated robbery, evading arrest, dangerous conduct and numerous narcotics-related offenses. Pursuant to this arrest, HSI San Antonio seized two pistols and two shotguns.
  • Rodney Zaid Mejia, Pedro Melendez and Hector Villarreal, all 20-year-olds and Hector Abarca, 21, and Johnnie Sanchez, 31, all members or associates of MS-13, were arrested in Houston on federal charges of racketeering, drug trafficking and firearms violations.
  • Ernesto Zaragoza Solis, 29, a U.S. citizen and associate of Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos, was arrested in Laredo, Texas, for kidnapping and engaging in organized criminal activity. His criminal convictions include transporting of an  undocumented alien for private financial gain.
  • David Solorio, 29, and Ronald Lopez, 46, both associates of the Mexican Mafia, and Sheldon McMorries, 34, all U.S. citizens, were arrested in Los Angeles County for conspiracy and murder. McMorries is a member of the street gang Varrio Carson 13, and an alleged hit man for the Mexican Mafia. His criminal convictions include taking a vehicle without consent, attempted grand theft auto and assault with a deadly weapon.
  • Jorge Luis Garcia, 30, a U.S. citizen and member of the Valluco gang was arrested in Starr County, Texas, for evading and resisting arrest and open state warrants for aggravated assault. He is also a registered sex offender and has criminal convictions for possession of marijuana and a controlled substance, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault, theft, resisting arrest, evading arrest and burglary.

Those arrested came from 33 countries in Central and South America, Europe, Asia,
Africa and the Caribbean. Of the total number arrested, 720 were males and 72 were females.

This enforcement operation is part of HSI’s Operation Community Shield global anti-gang initiative, and is administered by HSI’s National Gang Unit (NGU). Operation Community Shield partners with existing international, federal, state and local anti-gang efforts to identify violent street gangs, and develop intelligence on gang members and associates, criminal gang activities and international movements to arrest, prosecute, imprison and deport transnational gang members. NGU’s mission is to leverage its anti-gang initiative
“Operation Community Shield” to enhance U.S. public safety by developing strategic domestic and foreign law enforcement partnerships, and utilizing those partnerships along with unique legal authorities to target gangs, suppress their violence and prosecute their criminal enterprises.

Since the inception of Operation Community Shield in 2005, HSI special agents working
in conjunction with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide have arrested more than 25,629 street gang members and associates. Almost 40 percent of those arrested had a violent criminal history. Of those arrested, 313 were gang leaders and 3,910 were MS-13 gang members or associates. Through this initiative nationally, HSI has seized 3,024 firearms. To date, of those arrested, 13,405 have been charged criminally, and 12,224 have been charged with immigration violations.

Federal agencies involved in Project Nefarious included the FBI, the Drug Enforcement
Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Prisons and U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country.