An MS-13 gang leader pleaded guilty to federal charges of racketeering conspiracy Monday, including involvement in a Frederick murder from 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Silver Spring resident Jorge Guerra-Castillo, 40, also known as “Pelon,” pleaded guilty to conspiring to participate in racketeering activities, including two murders and two attempted murders, according to a DOJ news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. His defense attorneys did not wish to comment Tuesday.
Guerra-Castillo granted “approval” for the murder of the Frederick victim, who was not identified in the DOJ release, and arranged for another gang member to participate in the murder. MS-13 members repeatedly struck the victim with a machete and knife after luring him into a wooded area in Frederick April 7, 2015, authorities said.
The victim was reportedly a suspected rival gang member and murdered “for the purpose of maintaining and increasing rank in MS-13.” MS-13 members are “required to commit acts of violence” and doing so can “increase the respect accorded to that member,” the DOJ said in its statement. Branches of MS-13 operate throughout the counties of Frederick, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s and Montgomery, according to law enforcement.
Per Guerra-Castillo’s guilty plea, he was a member of an MS-13 clique, “Fulton Locos Salvatruchas,” starting before January of 2015. He agreed with other gang members “to conduct and participate in gang activities through a pattern of racketeering activity that included conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, and drug distribution,” the release states.
Former Acting Frederick Police Department Chief Dwight Sommers was among the law enforcement officials who announced the plea, according to the DOJ. Guerra-Castillo will be sentenced to between 390 and 540 months in federal prison if the court accepts the plea agreement. Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar scheduled sentencing for Oct. 15 at 2 p.m.
“The reign of terror, acts of violence, and horrific murders that Guerra-Castillo and his fellow MS-13 members have committed will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner said in a prepared statement. “The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland and our partners are committed to breaking the strong hold of violent gangs like MS-13 with swift and stringent prosecution. We will utilize every legal resource to ensure that citizens can live peacefully and fearlessly within their own communities.”
Among other offenses the DOJ listed, Guerra-Castillo directed gang members to kidnap and kill a victim who stopped making extortion payments but was later released; gave approval to kill two victims with a machete and knives — those victims survived; and approved and assisted in planning the murder of a suspected rival gang associate, who was dismembered and buried.
Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to call the FBI’s nationwide tipline, 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713). The FBI tipline allows people to provide information about MS-13’s criminal activities to a central location, and the FBI will then disseminate the information to the appropriate law enforcement authorities for investigation. The identity of tipsters will be protected, according to the DOJ.