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Four MS-13 members found guilty on racketeering charges across three Maryland counties

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Posted at 9:28 PM, Jan 29, 2022

BALTIMORE — A federal jury has convicted Milton Portillo-Rodriguez, Juan Carlos Sandoval-Rodriguez, Oscar Armando Sorto Romero, and Jose Joya Parada of racketeering in connection to the MS-13 gang.

Portillo-Rodriguez, Sandoval-Rodriguez, and Sorto Romero were also convicted of multiple counts of murder tied in with the racketeering.

Evidence presented at the three-month trial was accumulated over the years between 2015 and 2017, depicting the perpetrators engaging in drug trafficking, extortion, and brutal acts of violence against suspected rivals of the gang to increase MS-13’s power across three Maryland counties.

These counties are Fredrick County, Anne Arundel County, and Montgomery County. According to details outlined in the trial, the three members, associated with the Fulton set, sought to increase MS-13 presence in Frederick, Wheaton, and Annapolis through numerous acts of violence, extortion, and drug sales.

"The brutal and tragic violence perpetrated by these defendants and their fellow MS-13 gang members is totally unacceptable. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland and our local, state, and federal partners are working together to remove these violent gang members to keep our communities safe from the threat of MS-13," said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron.

The prosecution focused their trial evidence around four grisly 2017 murders of associated rival gang members. Each case involved luring the victims into a wooded area, where the defendants proceeded to stab, dismember, and bury them in a shallow grave.

Secret agent in charge of HSI Baltimore, James Mancuso, believes that these convictions marks a great victory for the state and a deterrent for other thinking about joining criminal organizations.

"These convictions mark a profound victory for the people of Maryland, who do not deserve to be intimidated by the reprehensible actions of these criminals," said Mancuso. "Hopefully, this prosecution and the sentences facing these defendants will deter others from joining criminal organizations..."

The result of the guilty verdict led to more than 30 defendants being convicted in relation to this case and other related cases.

Portillo-Rodriguez, Sandoval-Rodriguez, and Sorto Romero each face a mandatory sentence of life in prison for each of the murders committed in aid of racketeering charges. Joya Parada has already been sentenced to 50 years behind bars. Sentencing for Sorto Romero has been set for May 6, followed by Portillo Rodriguez on May 13, and Sandoval Rodriguez on May 23.

Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement. The FBI and Homeland Security Investigations both have nationwide tiplines that you can call to report what you know. You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or you can call HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.