MS-13 Leader Sentenced to 45 Years in Federal Prison in RICO Conspiracy Case
by Jim Kouri, CPP
A leader of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, was sentenced on Friday to 45 years in prison for his participation in a racketeering enterprise, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Edward M. Yarbrough of the Middle District of Tennessee announced.
Escolastico Serrano, a/k/a “Chito,” was also sentenced by Chief U.S. District JudgeTodd J. Campbell of the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville to serve five years ofsupervised release.
At his plea hearing on July 28, 2008, Serrano admitted that, as leader of the MS-13 gang,he conspired with others to participate in a pattern of racketeering activity in the Nashvillemetropolitan area that included murder, attempted murder and witness tampering. In addition to personally committing various acts of violence, Serrano admitted he exercised leadership by enforcing the rules of MS-13 and inciting other members to attack and kill rival gang members.
Serrano admitted that on Aug. 15, 1998, he and other MS-13 gang members attempted to kill by stabbing repeatedly individuals believed to be rival gang members who disrespected MS-13.
Serrano also admitted that on May 21, 2006, he and other MS-13 gang members fired a handgun at an individual who was suspected of being a member of the rival street gang Brown Pride. The victim was struck and wounded in the arm. In addition, Serrano admitted that on June 17, 2006, he and several fellow MS-13 members shot and killed two rival gang members sitting inside a car at a traffic light. Serrano further admitted that on Aug. 26, 2006, while he and other MS-13 members were in Huntingburg, Ind., they shot at individuals who disrespected MS-13.
Finally, Serrano admitted that in August 2006, he and other MS-13 members discussed and planned the murder of a Brown Pride member who worked at a food processing facility outside Nashville.
Serrano is the sixth defendant to be sentenced on RICO charges stemming from anindictment returned by a federal grand jury in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2007. That indictmentcharged 14 members of MS-13 with conspiring to participate in the affairs of a racketeeringenterprise and related charges including murder, attempted murder, assault, weapons charges and obstruction of justice.
Five other defendants were previously sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to theRICO conspiracy. Walter Hernandez was sentenced on March 31, 2008, to 324 months inprison. On Dec. 3 and Dec. 7, 2007, respectively, Henry Garballo-Vasquez and Jose Alfaro were sentenced to 240 months in prison. On Nov. 20, 2007, Geovanni Pena received a sentence of 235 months in prison. On Sept. 8, 2008, Ericka Cortez received a sentence of 46 months in prison.
According to law enforcement officials, the MS-13 gang is a violent international criminalorganization composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador.
The purpose of the racketeering enterprise was to preserve and protect the power, territory and profits of the MS-13 enterprise through violent assault, murder, threats of violence andintimidation.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.