American Justice Notebook

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MS-13 Gang Member Sentenced to 35 Years in Prison for Conspiracy Involving Murder


An MS-13 gang member was sentenced Tuesday to 35 years in prison for his murder of a 19-year-old in 2015, according 

According to evidence presented at the trial of three co-defendants, Juan Garcia-Gomez, aka Scooby, 26, of El Salvador, conspired to participate in the affairs of Mara Salvatrucha, a violent criminal gang also known as MS-13, founded in Los Angeles and active in numerous states across the United States, as well as in El Salvador, Central America, and Mexico.

MS-13 is governed by a core set of rules, including a standing order to kill rival gang members and a strict rule against cooperating with law enforcement.

MS-13 is organized into a series of sub-units, or “cliques,” that operate in specific geographic locations, and each clique is typically controlled by a single leader, sometimes known as the “First Word.”

Two cliques that were active in and around Hudson County, New Jersey, were the Pinos Locos Salvatrucha clique, of which Garcia-Gomez was a member/associate, and the Hudson Locos Salvatrucha clique.

Based on court documents, Garcia-Gomez’s plea agreement, and evidence presented at the trial of three co-defendants, in July 2015, Jose Urias-Hernandez, then 19 years old, was shot and killed execution-style by Garcia-Gomez with a single shot to the back of his head as he entered his home.

Garcia-Gomez participated in the murder because he was ordered by MS-13 leadership to commit the murder to achieve membership in the gang.

prison cells“Due to the dedicated efforts of the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners, Garcia-Gomez and his fellow gang members will no longer be able to victimize this community,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“Garcia-Gomez committed a brutal and violent crime to gain membership in a criminal organization known for its brutality and violence,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey. “He wasn’t even out of his teens when he complied with MS-13’s orders and snuffed out another young man’s life, ruining the lives of his victim’s family and friends and ending any chance at a decent life for himself. This sentence will keep this violent criminal off of our streets.”

“Garcia-Gomez and his fellow gang members plagued their community with violence,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “This action shows the FBI’s commitment to dismantling these organized criminal enterprises and keeping the communities we serve safe.”

In addition to Garcia-Gomez, nine defendants were charged in this investigation against MS-13 in New Jersey, including Jose Gimenez-Lobos, aka Infernal, aka Terrible, 31, of El Salvador, and Jose Rivera-Robles, aka Layo, 36, of El Salvador. One defendant, Christian Linares-Rodriguez, aka Donkey, 42, is a high-ranking MS-13 member who is currently incarcerated in El Salvador and is awaiting extradition to the United States.

Three other defendants have been convicted at trial in November 2021, including Juan Pablo Escalante-Melgar, aka Humilde, Elmer Cruz-Diaz, aka Locote, and Oscar Sanchez-Aguilar, aka Snappy, and are awaiting sentencing.

At sentencing, Esclante-Melgar, Cruz-Diaz, and Sanchez-Aguilar each face a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison. 

The FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Enforcement and Removal Operations Newark Field Office, Homeland Security Investigations the Hudson County Prosecutors Office, and the West New York Police Department investigated the case.

Trial Attorney Matthew J. Hoff of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Desiree Grace for the District of New Jersey prosecuted the case.