MS-13 Gang Member Sentenced to Life in Federal Prison After Being Convicted of Racketeering, Including Murders, and Federal Drug Charges
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced Brayan Contreras-Avalos, a/k/a “Anonimo,” “Humilde,” and “Malia,” age 28, of Langley Park, Maryland, late yesterday to the statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison on charges related to his participation in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or “MS-13” and a concurrent five years in prison for a drug distribution conspiracy. Contreras-Avalos was convicted after a three-week trial, along with co-defendants Luis Flores-Reyes, a/k/a “Maloso,” “Lobo,”’ and “Viejo Lovvon,” age 42, of Arlington, Virginia and Jairo Jacome, a/k/a “Abuelo”, age 40, of Langley Park, Maryland.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Wayne Jacobs of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Washington Field Office Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Jarod Forget of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Washington Division; Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III of the Drug Enforcement Administration – New York Division; Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department; and Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department.
MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador and other central American countries. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Frederick County, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County, Maryland. Contreras-Avalos, along with co-defendant Luis Flores-Reyes, was a leader within the Sailors Clique, which held territory in Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and El Salvador. Co-defendant Jairo Jacome was the highest-ranking member of the local Langley Park Salvatrucha, or “LPS” clique.
At all times of this conspiracy, members of MS-13 were expected to protect the name, reputation, and status of the gang and to use any means necessary to force respect from those who showed disrespect, including acts of intimidation and violence. MS-13 had mottos consistent with its rules, beliefs, expectations and reputation including “mata, viola, controla,” which translates as, “kill, rape, control.” One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, often referred to as “chavalas,” whenever possible.
MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence both to maintain membership and discipline within the gang, as well as against rival gang members. Participation in criminal activity by a member, particularly in violent acts directed at rival gangs or as directed by gang leadership, increase the respect accorded to that member, resulting in that member maintaining or increasing his position in the gang, and opens the door to promotion to a leadership position.
As detailed during the trial, Contreras-Avalos and his co-defendants participated in at least three murders, including four minor victims, during the period of the conspiracy. Most of the victims were purported gang rivals except for one minor victim. For example, in June 2016, members of MS-13, including Contreras-Avalos, stabbed to death two homeless persons who gang members believed to be members of the 18th Street gang, in Hyattsville, Maryland. The investigation revealed no evidence that the victims were in fact members of any gang. According to the evidence presented at trial, Contreras-Avalos sought on another occasion to kill a homeless man until permission was denied, and later approved an unrelated murder where the intended target survived the attack, but an associate did not.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, the defendants ran an extortion scheme in and around Langley Park, extorting local businesses by charging them “rent” for the privilege of operating in MS-13 “territory.” Contreras-Avalos and Flores-Reyes also trafficked illegal drugs, including marijuana and cocaine. A large share of the proceeds of the gang’s illegal activities were sent to gang leadership in El Salvador to further promote the illicit activities of the gang, using structured transactions and intermediaries to avoid law enforcement scrutiny.
Co-defendants Luis Flores-Reyes, a/k/a “Maloso,” “Lobo,”’ and “Viejo Lovvon,” age 42, of Arlington, Virginia and Jairo Jacome, a/k/a “Abuelo”, age 40, of Langley Park, Maryland, were convicted for the racketeering conspiracy and for murder in aid of racketeering. Jacome and Flores-Reyes were also convicted of extortion conspiracy. Flores-Reyes and Jacome face a mandatory sentence of life in prison at their sentencing. Judge Xinis has scheduled sentencing for Flores-Reyes on February 22, 2023, and for Jacome on February 23, 2023.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.
This case is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement. The FBI and Homeland Security Investigations both have nationwide tiplines that you can call to report what you know. You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or you can call HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. commended the FBI, DEA, HSI, Prince George’s County Police Department, Montgomery County Police Department, Virginia State Police, Lynchburg Police Department, Prince William County Police Department, Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, the Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron and Mr. Polite thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy F. Hagan, Chris M. Sarma, William Moomau, Assistant Director Catherine Dick of the Department of Justice Consumer Protection Division and Trial Attorney Alexander Gottfried of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, who are prosecuting this case.