When a former MS-13 soldier got picked up in a robbery, gang members suspected he had snitched to police.
In a chain of events that will seem familiar to viewers of Goodfellas or The Sopranos, an MS-13 deputy from Silver Spring gave the order in February 2020. Gang members in the clique stayed friendly with the presumed turncoat and promised forgiveness. A meeting was arranged in Adelphi. The man was picked up, driven to Hyattsville, walked into a wooded area and fatally shot by two gang members. One of them was promoted.
That’s the chain of events described in a news release this week from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland.
Agustin Eugenio Rivas Rodriguez, 25, of Silver Spring—the clique’s deputy—pleaded guilty Tuesday to participating in a racketeering conspiracy including murder, alongside Hernan Yanes-Rivera, 22, of Adelphi—the soldier who was promoted—according to the release.
The men are part of the MS-13 gang, an international criminal organization composed primarily of El Salvadorean immigrants or their descendants, according to the release.
According to the plea agreement, from August 2018 through July 2021, Rivas Rodriguez and Yanes-Rivera were members of the Weedams Locos Salvatrucha, (WLS), a MS-13 clique in Adelphi, with Rivas Rodriguez being the group’s second in command.
On Feb. 23, 2020, Rivas Rodriquez and another MS-13 leader directed Yanes-Rivera and another co-defendant, MS-13 member Franklyn Sanchez, to shoot and kill Victim 1, a former WLS member, because they suspected the victim had cooperated with law enforcement officials.
The plea agreement stated that Victim 1 had been interviewed by local police after a robbery he committed with a fellow member of the WLS. The co-defendant pleaded guilty to the robbery prior to Victim 1 being murdered.
In the weeks before the murder, Victim 1 continued to communicate with WLS members through social media, text messaging and phone calls, and records showed that he was told he would be forgiven by WLS members for cooperating with law enforcement officials if he met with gang members to make amends.
According to the release, Victim 1 was picked up at the designated location near Adelphi where he was told to wait, by Yanes-Rivera and Sanchez. They then drove to a location in or near Hyattsville, got out of the car and walked into a wooded area, where Yanes-Rivera and Sanchez shot Victim 1. Victim 1 died. Yanes-Rivera was promoted within the MS-13 because of this homicide, the release said.
Another victim who was suspected of collaborating with law enforcement officials and whom Sanchez owed a debt to, identified as Victim 4, was murdered by Sanchez and other WLS members in Prince George’s County on Aug. 8, 2020, according to the release. Officials stated the body was later recovered with a bullet wound to the victim’s head.
According to the release, Rivas Rodriguez and Yanes-Rivera also extorted money or “rents” from at least two victims on behalf of the WLS, under the threat of death or injury. Yanes-Rivera also took part in money laundering by transferring funds received through extortion to MS-13 members and associates in El Salvador.
According to officials, if the court accepts the plea deal, then Yanes-Rivera will be sentenced to 22 years and Rivas Rodriguez will be sentenced to 16 years in federal prison. The release stated that U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis has scheduled the sentencing dates for Rivas Rodriguez and Yanes-Rivera on July 21 and July 28, respectively.
Sanchez, 26, also pleaded guilty to the same charges as Yanes-Rivera and Rivas Rodriguez on March 7, and his sentencing has been scheduled for May 19, according to officials.
In Maryland, officials stated that the gang is divided into smaller cliques operating in specific cities or regions. To keep their membership and maintain discipline within the gang and outside it, MS-13 members are required to engage in acts of violence and kill rivals known as “chavalas,” whenever possible, the release said.
The Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office asked anyone with information on the MS-13 to provide tips to law enforcement officials as the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations both have nationwide tiplines. The FBI can be reached at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713) while the HSI can be contacted at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
Court records did not list attorney information for Yanes-Rivera, Rivas Rodriguez and Sanchez.