A leader of a violent street gang tied to the attempted murder of two rival gang members and to the extortion of pimps trafficking prostitutes from Maryland into Virginia pleaded guilty Thursday to federal racketeering charges, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
ICE Special Agent in Charge John P. Torres, who heads the agency’s Homeland Security Investigations Division in Washington, D.C., said Jose Anibal Vigil, 21, of Falls Church, Va., pleaded guilty to charges involving being a member of Gangsters Locos Salvatrucha (GLS), an offshoot of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, a racketeering enterprise.
He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison at sentencing on May 6.
“MS-13 and the violent tactics they use to instill fear throughout our communities will not be tolerated,” Mr. Torres said. “As evidenced in today’s plea, MS-13 operates as a criminal enterprise using brutal acts to include attempted murder as a means to spread their control in our neighborhoods.”
According to court records, Vigil was officially “jumped into” MS-13 in 2008 and obtained the gang moniker “Silencio.” He became a leader of the GLS clique, which was involved in extensive criminal activity, including an attempt in May 2008 to kill two rival gang members outside a youth center in the Culmore area of Fairfax County, Va.
Armed with a pick ax, a machete and a chain, the MS-13 members attacked their rivals yelling, “We are going to kill you,” and “La Mara Salvatrucha,” the documents show. The two rival gang members were seriously injured during the attack.
Mr. Torres said Vigil also admitted that in 2010, MS-13 members collected “protection money” from at least two prostitution organizations operating in Culmore. In exchange for payments, he said MS-13 members allowed the prostitution services to operate in the area, and one of the men who supplied the prostitutes said he believed the gang would kill him if he did not pay.
A portion of the funds collected was sent to MS-13 gang operations in El Salvador.
According to a plea agreement in the case, MS-13 is a violent street gang operating in Northern Virginia, which has been split into different cliques, which generally represent separate neighborhoods. Their principal purpose is to protect MS-13 turf and members and commit acts of violence against rival gangs, also known as “chavalas.”
The agreement said the Gangsters Locos Salvatrucha clique was “involved in extensive criminal activity.”
MS-13 was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s and expanded to other states in the 1990s. The organization has about 30,000 members, 10,000 in the U.S. It is currently the largest gang in many states, including Virginia.
“Violent gangs spread fear throughout the community,” said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride in Virginia. “We are determined to work together — as federal, state and local law enforcement — to put MS-13 out of business in Northern Virginia.”
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said the plea represented the success of “another strategic collaboration between the U.S. attorney’s office, local and federal agencies, and the Office of the Attorney General.”