LAS VEGAS (AP) — Federal criminal charges have been filed against four alleged MS-13 street gang members who police have said are responsible for 10 killings during the last year in and around Las Vegas, authorities said Wednesday.
The announcement by Interim U.S. Attorney Dayle Elieson of one criminal case came two days after Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo in Las Vegas said the arrests of four adults and a 17-year-old who was being held as a juvenile broke up a murderous ring responsible for 10 slayings since March 2017.
Elieson said the four — all from El Salvador and ranging in age from 19 to 24 — face kidnapping, weapon and assault with intent to commit murder charges in the death of a 21-year-old rival gang member mutilated body was found Feb. 2 on federal land in desert mountains east of Las Vegas. Each could face life in prison if convicted.
The developments in Las Vegas follow recent declarations by President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that they are committed to cracking down on MS-13. Trump blames lax U.S. immigration laws for allowing deported members of MS-13 to return to the U.S. to prey upon law-abiding people.
A criminal complaint alleges that Arquimides Sandoval-Martinez, a former El Salvador resident, was abducted early Jan. 21 outside a downtown Las Vegas club, bound with shoelaces and driven to the desert where he was hacked with a machete and shot.
In arguing for detention for three of the men pending trial, prosecutor Frank Coumou characterized the slaying as a “horrendous” ”mutilation killing.”
The complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, says Josue Diaz-Orellana, 22, Luis Reyes-Castillo, 24, David Perez-Manchame, 19, and Miguel Torres-Escobar, 20 were arrested March 2 in Diaz-Orellana’s car.
A large butcher knife, a bloodstained baseball hat and three 9mm handguns were also found in the car, the document alleges.
Reyes-Castillo, Perez-Manchame and Torres-Escobar appeared in court Wednesday beside newly appointed lawyers as a U.S. magistrate judge ordered them to remain in federal custody and set an April 11 date to hear evidence in the case. Each defendant wore wrist, waist and ankle shackles and thin white paper jumpsuits with no pockets for the court appearance.
Documents say Reyes-Castillo also used the name Molesto and Perez-Manchame used the names Herbi and Walter Melendez.
Diaz-Orellana is expected to appear for arraignment in coming days. He was charged March 20 with making a false statement to federal officers. He is accused of providing false identification documents following his arrest and saying he was a permanent U.S. resident who had applied for asylum. A different magistrate judge ordered him detained pending a preliminary hearing April 9.
A federal public defender representing Diaz-Orellana did not immediately respond Wednesday to messages.
The criminal complaint in his false information case says his car, a 2012 Ford Fusion, was seen on a state highway near Mount Charleston northwest of the city where the body of 26-year-old Earl R. Ryan was found March 2. Charges have not been filed in Ryan’s death.
The gang known as La Mara Salvatrucha emerged in the 1980s as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles but is believed by federal prosecutors to have thousands of members across the U.S., primarily immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras. They have been linked to waves of violence in the suburbs of New York City, Washington, D.C., and other communities.
Lombardo, the elected head of the Las Vegas police department, estimated the number of MS-13 members in southern Nevada at fewer than 50.