- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Prince George’s County police corporal yesterday testified about his time undercover with a Hispanic gang during the fifth week of the federal racketeering trial of three of the gang’s leaders.

The corporal, who was not identified, testified in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt that he had seen two of the defendants several times during activities related to the Hispanic gang MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha.

On trial are Jose Cruz “Piranha” Diaz, 27, of Lanham, Omar “Duke” Vasquez, 28, and Henry “Homeboy” Zelaya, 20. The men face life in prison if convicted of federal racketeering charges involving as many as six killings, sexual assaults, kidnappings, robberies, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

The officer identified Mr. Diaz and Mr. Zelaya in court, pointing out the “MS” tattoo on Mr. Diaz’s back and the “Salvatrucha” tattoo on Mr. Zelaya’s abdomen.

The officer also testified about his relationship with federal informant Noe “Shorty” Cruz, 27, a former gang member who previously testified that the defendants had been present during meetings of MS-13 “cliques.”

Much of Mr. Cruz’s testimony was about a meeting of Maryland and Virginia MS-13 gangs in January 2003 at Bull Run Regional Park on the boundary of Fairfax and Prince William counties.

The defendants are among 22 indicted on racketeering charges last year. Two were found guilty in November. Eight have pleaded guilty. Most await sentencing.

Prosecutors said yesterday that they are approaching the end of their case.

“We could wrap it up early next week,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Trusty, who had estimated as the trial began March 13 that prosecutors would call 70 to 80 witnesses.

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