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MS-13 member sentenced to 10 years in prison for driving gang to behead and dismember a victim

Kaylee Greenlee, DCNF

A Maryland man pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit murder as part of MS-13 and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

Luis Cruz Rodriguez, 23, of Frederick, Maryland, admitted to associating with the Fulton branch of MS-13 beginning in January 2017, according to the Justice Department (DOJ). Rodriguez was present when MS-13 gang members initially plotted to kill an unidentified person referred to as victim 14 and drove the gang members to the scene of the murder, though he was not present when the person was killed, the DOJ said.

The MS-13 members reportedly killed victim 14, who was believed to be a rival gang member, before dismembering the body and burying it in a shallow grave, according to the DOJ. The body was discovered decapitated and severed into seven pieces in July 2017.

Rodriguez agreed to conduct and participate in MS-13 operations via racketeering activity including conspiring to commit murder, extortion, and drug distribution, according to the DOJ. MS-13 members are required to protect information concerning the gang from rival gangs or other outsiders.

MS-13 members are expected to protect the gang by using “any means necessary to force respect from those who showed disrespect, including acts of intimidation and violence,” according to the DOJ.

“MS-13 had mottos consistent with its rules, beliefs, expectations and reputation including ‘mata, viola, controla,’ which translates as, ‘kill, rape, control,’ and ‘ver, oir y callar,’ which means, ‘see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing,’ according to the DOJ.

MS-13 gang “cliques” operate internationally and across the U.S. with branches in several counties in Maryland, according to the DOJ. Members are mostly immigrants or from El Salvador.

Thirty defendants have been charged with participating in racketeering conspiracy or other crimes in relation to their association with the MS-13 gang, according to the DOJ. Rodriguez and 19 others have pled guilty to crimes related to their involvement with MS-13.

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