Tom Diaz

Posts Tagged ‘Frank Flores’


In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on November 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Leaders of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in El Salvador Ordered Hit on ICE Agent in New York

Now it’s definite.

And it’s personal.

Leaders of the transnational organized criminal gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) have upped the ante and ordered a hit on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in New York.  An earlier plot to kill an LAPD gang detective, Frank Flores, was detailed in a RICO indictment earlier this year.  (See “The Plot to Whack a Cop” here.)

This case takes MS-13’s violent impudence to a federal level.

Tom Diaz, "No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement"

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

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M-16 Assault Rifle Was One Choice of MS-13 Gangsters to Kill Federal Agent

According to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant, an MS-13 member specifically tasked to kill the ICE agent described the plot to federal agents.  The gangsters were looking for an AK-47 or M-16 assault rifle to do the job.  (“Affidavit In Support Of Arrest Warrant,”  United States v. Walter Alberto Torres, also known as “Duke,” United States District Court for the Eastern District Of New York, Case 1:09-mj-01055-RLM).

This is perhaps not surprising, given MS-13’s violent history — which is detailed in my book, No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement (University of Michigan Press, 2009).

As Fairly Civil has noted before, there is no question that gangsters in the United States have access to the firepower to take on U.S. law enforcement agents in the same way that narcotraficantes go after Mexican law enforcement authorities.  The question has been:  would gang leadership risk bringing the fury of America’s cops and agents down on their heads?

Apparently they would.   (Although one experienced gang cop takes exception to this conclusion here.)


AK-47 Was Other Choice of MS-13 Gangsters

It is worth noting that some gang experts familiar with the Mexican Mafia and their affiliated Sureno gangs insist that the Mexican Mafia made its decision a few years ago to target troublesome cops.

If there were any gloves left on, they are off now.

Here is an extended excerpt from the affidavit. (Under the circumstances, Fairly Civil does not include the name of the agent filing the affidavit.  The target is called “John Doe” in the affidavit.):

2. Over the past several years, my office has engaged in an extended, in-depth investigation of members of the street gang La Mara Salvatrucha 13, also known as “MS-13,” (hereinafter “MS-13”). The defendant WALTER ALBERTO TORRES DUKE, also known as “Duke,” is a self-admitted member of MS-13. MS-13 engages in acts and threats involving murder, attempted murder, robbery and extortion, in violation of the laws of the various states, including New York, and narcotics trafficking, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 841 and 846.

3. MS-13 is comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador and other Central American countries, with members located throughout the United States and Central America. In the United States, major MS-13 chapters, or “cliques,” have been established in New York, Virginia, Texas, California and elsewhere. Following induction, members of MS-13 frequently demonstrate their membership by wearing clothing containing the colors blue and white and/or the words “MS” or “13.”

4. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 cliques have been established in various towns on Long Island, including Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt, Huntington, Brentwood and Islip, and neighborhoods in New York City including Jamaica, Flushing, Forest Hills and Far Rockaway. The cliques routinely hold meetings to plan criminal activity, and members pay dues into a clique treasury. The treasury funds are used to purchase firearms and ammunition and to promote other illegal activity. Inter-clique meetings, called “Universals,” are used to coordinate criminal activities among different cliques. Participation in criminal activity by a member, especially violence directed at rival gangs, increases the respect accorded to that member and is necessary to obtain a promotion to a senior or leadership position.

5. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 members are frequently involved in violent altercations with members of rival gangs such as the Salvadorans With Pride (“SWP”), the Latin Kings, the Bloods and the Netas. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 members have repeatedly carried out “drive-by” shootings and other violent attacks targeting members of rival gangs and others.

6. According to a cooperating witness (“CW”), members of MS-13 have been plotting to kill ICE Agent John Doe (“Agent Doe”), a leader in the investigation of MS-13, since at least December 2006. Specifically, CW stated that he, along with fellow MS-13 gang members in the Flushing clique of MS-13, plotted to murder Agent Doe with either a rifle or a shotgun, in retaliation for Agent Doe’s ongoing investigation of MS-13 in Queens, New York. CW stated that the gang was exceedingly angry at Agent Doe, whom MS-13 blamed for the incarceration of dozens of gang members in Queens, New York, and elsewhere.

7. A second MS-13 gang member, who subsequently pled guilty to racketeering-related charges in this District, admitted to participating in the same plot to kill Agent Doe in late 2006 and early 2007, during proffer sessions with the government.

8. On or about October 16, 2009, at approximately 9:30 p.m., detectives from the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) observed a group of several admitted MS-13 gang members walking on Northern Boulevard, near 150th Street, in Flushing, Queens, and approaching other pedestrians in an aggressive manner. Two detectives requested the individuals to stop, and requested them to take their hands out of their pockets. The individuals ultimately complied, and the detectives recognized four of the individuals as previously identified MS-13 gang members. A fifth individual, the defendant TORRES, was not known to the detectives at the time, but identified himself as a member of MS-13 and stated that he wished to provide information to the NYPD. None of the individuals, including the defendant, were taken into custody.

9. On or about October 20, 2009, defendant WALTER ALBERTO TORRES, also known as “Duke,” contacted detectives from the NYPD and requested a meeting, which was arranged for later that day. Prior to commencing the interview with the defendant, the defendant was advised of his Miranda rights, both orally and in writing. Defendant TORRES indicated that he understood and wished to waive his rights, and signed a written waiver to that effect.

10. During the interview, the defendant stated, in sum and substance and in part, that he has been a member of MS-13 since joining the gang in approximately 1998 in El Salvador. The defendant stated that he emigrated to the United States in 2001, at which point he joined an MS-13 clique in Springfield, Virginia. He later moved to Alexandria, Virginia.

11. The defendant further stated that he and other MS-13 gang members agreed to murder Agent Doe and engaged in planning the murder. In order to perpetrate the murder, the defendant stated that the gang was attempting to procure an AK-47 assault rifle or an M-16 machine gun, in anticipation that the bullets would penetrate the agent’s body armor. TORRES stated that the order for the murder came from gang leadership in El Salvador, and that he discussed the plan with MS-13 gang members as recently as August 2009.

12. During the October 20, 2009 interview, it was determined that there was an outstanding warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Specifically, the defendant is wanted in Fairfax, Virginia, for violation of probation following his guilty plea to grand larceny, a felony. The defendant was subsequently taken into custody.

13. On or about October 22, 2009, NYPD detectives and ICE agents again interviewed the defendant, this time at Riker’s Island. The defendant was advised of his Miranda rights, both orally and in writing. Defendant TORRES again indicated that he understood and wished to waive his rights, and signed a written waiver to that effect.

14. During the interview, the defendant described, among other things, multiple acts of violence he committed on behalf of MS-13. The defendant also described the plot to kill a federal agent, stating that he traveled to New York in or about August 2009 for the specific purpose of participating in the planning and execution of the murder plot. Information provided by the CW, as well as surveillance by law enforcement agents, corroborates the identity and gang membership of the coconspirators identified by TORRES. According to TORRES, he was in charge of putting the plan together, and he agreed with fellow gang members to participate in the ongoing plot to kill Agent Doe with a high powered rifle or similar weapon.

MS 13

Maybe All They Need is a Hug: MS-13 Gangsters Flash Devil's Horns


In Crime, Gangs, Latino gangs, Transnational crime on May 12, 2009 at 7:23 pm
It grew out of the discriminatory policies of the Clanton Street gang, then one of the most powerful gangs in the city.  The Clanton Street gang limited its membership to candidates who could prove that they were of 100 percent Mexican ancestry.  The youngsters who were turned away by Clanton eventually organized their own gang and called it the 18th Street gang.  But organizing was one thing.  Solving the problem was another.  “They were getting their asses kicked by Clanton,” says LAPD gang expert Sgt. Frank Flores.  “So they opened the books to non-Mexicans.”
(University of Michigan Press, June 2009), p. 80.
The Sullen Face of the 18th Street Gang in Maryland -- Joel Y. ("Jhony") Ventura-Quintanilla

The Sullen Face of the 18th Street Gang in Maryland -- Joel Y. ("Jhony") Ventura-Quintanilla

On January 18, 2009, 15-year old Dennys Alfredo Guzman-Saenz left his home in the 8100 block of 14th Avenue in Hyattsville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC.  The teenager walked to a Metrobus stop in front of his house, planning to take a bus to a friend’s house.  He never made it.

The smell of brimstone was in the air.

According to the Montgomery County Department of Police, Guzman-Saenz crossed paths with the devil incarnate in the form of Joel Y. (“Jhony”) Ventura-Quintanilla and four other members of the 18th Street gang — spawned in Los Angeles in the 1980s, but now present throughout the United States.  Following the simplistically brutal traditions of gang culture, the 18th Street gangsters were out celebrating the 18th of the month — 18th of the month and 18th Street, get it? — by looking for a member of the gang’s bitter rival, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) to whack.

Guzman-Saenz was not yet an MS-13 member.  But he was a hanger-on or “associate.”  That was good enough for the 18th Street members’ blood lust. They fell on the youth like jackals on a rabbit, overwhelmed him, and stuffed him into a car.

Members of the two gangs are sworn to attack each other, a rivalry that began back in Los Angeles during the 1980s.

As noted in the quote from my forthcoming book at the top of this posting, the 18th Street gang started out in Los Angeles as an alternative for would-be gangsters who could not meet the dominant Clanton Street gang’s rule limiting membership to those of 100 percent Mexican lineage.

!8th Street Tattoos Feature Number "18" Or Combinations That Add Up to 18

!8th Street Tattoos Feature Number "18" Or Combinations That Add Up to 18

But the new 18th Street gang was weak.  So the leaders “opened the books” to persons of all ethnic backgrounds.  The result was an explosion of membership and the new gang quickly rose to dominance.  Here is how the National Gang Intelligence Center’s National Gang Threat Assessment 2009 describes the 18th Street gang today:

Formed in Los Angeles, 18th Street is a group of loosely associated sets or cliques, each led by an influential member. Membership is estimated at 30,000 to 50,000. In California approximately 80 percent of the gang’s members are illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America. The gang is active in 44 cities in 20 states. Its main source of income is street-level distribution of cocaine and marijuana and, to a lesser extent, heroin and methamphetamine. Gang members also commit assault, auto theft, carjacking, drive-by shootings, extortion, homicide, identification fraud, and robbery.

A Long Way From L.A. -- 18th Street Gangster in Providence, R.I.

A Long Way From L.A. -- 18th Street Gangster in Providence, R.I.

The 18th Street gang was formed at about the same time that a large wave of refugees from El Salvador’s civil war ended up in Los Angeles.  Before the Salvadorans formed their own gang — what would become Mara Salvatrucha, and later MS-13 — some of the refugee youth joined the 18th Street gang under its open book policy.

According to some gang experts, the singular animosity between the 18th Street gang and MS-13 stems from the fact that leaders of the new Salvadoran gang considered those who had joined 18th Street as “sell-outs” and viewed them with murderous contempt.  Murder, counter-murder, and counter-counter murder followed.

Whatever the complex of reasons, there is no doubt that in the United States and in Central America — where the gangs metastasized during the 1990s after gangsters were deported there from the United States — members of the two gangs attack and kill each other in brutal fashion.

Here, according to a local news report (Montgomery News Gazette), is what happened to Dennys Alfredo Guzman-Saenz:

When they [the 18th Street gangsters] saw Guzman-Saenz, who was not in MS-13 but had friends who were, they posed as MS-13 members to determine if he was affiliated with the gang. Guzman-Saenz was abducted after he provided information about MS-13, police said.

Prosecutors said Guzman-Saenz was beaten and stabbed once in the car in Langley Park, according to a brief account given by Assistant State’s Attorney Jeffrey Wennar at bond hearings for four of the suspects Monday. The gang members took the teen to a suspect’s residence in Germantown, then to Malcolm King Park in Gaithersburg [another Maryland suburb] . Guzman-Saenz was taken to a stream in the park and stabbed 72 times, Wennar said.

A jogger found Guzman-Saenz dead in the park at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 19.

The Washington Post adds this detail:

Immediately after the stabbing, one of the suspects went to a grocery store to buy a celebratory beer, police said in charging documents made public yesterday. The suspect then returned to his kitchen a knife used in the killing, and he and his roommate later used it to prepare food, according to the documents.

One could dismiss this incident as so much inter-gang warfare, not of much consequence to the rest of us.

That, however, misses several points.

One is the sheer brutality characteristic of both gangs.  Another is the hazard anyone faces in crossing paths with such gangsters.  Finally, gangsters like the ones involved in this little drama are the foot soldiers of much bigger enterprises connected to the illegal drug trade and to the trade in other contraband, including firearms and human beings.

Project what this will look like five or ten years down the road.


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