Alleged MS-13 members charged with murder


A dozen alleged members of an MS-13 gang in Santa Cruz have been accused in a revised indictment by a federal grand jury in San Jose of charges including murder, drug trafficking and racketeering.

The revised indictment handed down Wednesday is the third to be filed against the defendants. The first was issued in February 2017 and an amended version was filed in April.

The gang allegedly operated between 2012 and 2017 and was known as Santa Cruz Salvatrucha Locos 13, or SCSL13, according to prosecution documents. It allegedly was a branch of the larger Mara Salvatrucha 13, or MS-13, and was made up primarily of immigrants and descendants of immigrants from El Salvador.

Acting U.S. Attorney Alex Tse said in a statement:

MS-13 has presented a violent threat in the Santa Cruz area for years. … The gang targeted many, including other immigrants from El Salvador, and they instilled fear in everyone who experienced or witnessed their brutality.”

All 12 defendants are accused of conspiring to racketeer, or conduct an organized-crime enterprise. The charge carries a potential life sentence upon conviction.

Six are accused of conspiring to murder rival gang members and three of those defendants are accused of murder in aid of racketeering, according to an indictment summary prepared by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The defendants accused of murder in aid of racketeering are Erick Escalante-Torres, 23; Jose Noe Ramirez-Avelar, 28; and Alexander Martinez-Flores, 29.

That charge could carry a potential death penalty if local federal prosecutors seek approval to pursue a death penalty and the U.S. attorney general allows it. Otherwise, it carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Seven defendants are charged with conspiring to extort payments from local drug dealers by threatening violence against the dealers, their families or friends.

Other charges against various defendants include conspiring to sell methamphetamine and using guns in crimes of violence.

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