The U.S. attorney’s office has announced that six members of the notorious MS-13 gang were charged on Nov. 28 in connection with the brutal slaying of a teenage boy in a Boston area playground—stabbed to death because the suspects believed “the victim had been cooperating with law enforcement.”
The defendants allegedly murdered Herson Rivas in late July and left his body in a wooded area of the Henry Avenue Playground in Lynn, a Boston suburb. According to a statement by the U.S. attorney’s office, it was not until Aug. 2 that a bystander discovered the body.
The 17-year-old was stabbed multiple times with what investigators called “extreme atrocity and cruelty.”
“MS-13 is a ruthless, transnational gang operating in our backyard,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling about the transnational criminal organization, also known as “La Mara Salvatrucha.”
“This group routinely commits senseless acts of violence,” Lelling said, “including murder, to maintain control and instill fear.”
Racketeering and Murder
Six alleged members of the violent MS-13 gang, also known as “La Mara Salvatrucha,” were indicted Wednesday in a federal court in Boston on charges of racketeering.
As part of the racketeering conspiracy, five of the six defendants are additionally accused of participating in Rivas’s murder. The five murder suspects are currently detained on state charges or in immigration custody and will appear in federal court in the days ahead, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
The indictment names the following alleged members of the Sykos Locos Salvatrucha gang:
Erick Lopez Flores, aka “Mayimbu,” 29, of Lynn;
Henri Salvador Gutierrez, aka “Perverso,” 19, a Salvadoran national previously residing in Somerville;
Eliseo Vaquerano Canas, aka “Peligroso,” 19, a Salvadoran national previously residing in Chelsea;
Jonathan Tercero Yanes, aka “Desalmado,” 21, a Salvadoran national previously residing in East Boston;
Marlos Reyes, aka “Silencio,” 22, a Salvadoran national previously residing in Chelsea; and
Djavier Duggins, aka “Haze,” 29, of Lynn.
Rivas was allegedly killed by the group because they suspected he was cooperating with police.
The document alleges that several of the accused “murdered the victim with premeditated malice, and with extreme atrocity and cruelty.”
The evidence is said to include a recording of Henri Salvador Gutierrez “describing the murder in graphic detail, including how he, Vaquerano, Tercero, and Yanes stabbed the victim numerous times.”
Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, called the murder “another sobering example of the savagery of MS-13, the ruthlessness of its members, and the utter disregard they have for law and order.”
“This barbaric behavior cannot and will not be tolerated,” Shaw continued, adding that “law enforcement at all levels will continue to use all available resources, aggressively exploit all available intelligence, and work as one integrated team with the sole intention of preventing additional murders or future acts of violence.”
Lopez, Salvador, Vaquerano, Tercero, and Reyes face up to life in prison because their alleged racketeering activity involved murder.
Duggins, who faces a charge of racketeering conspiracy, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.
“The brutal violence that is the hallmark of MS-13 is well-documented, and this case was yet another example of the gang’s ruthlessness,” said Col. Kerry A. Gilpin, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. He praised the individuals who worked on the case, saying that their work gave a voice to the victim and provided a measure of justice for his family “by developing the evidence that led to these indictments.”
Sentences will be handed down by a federal district court judge.
MS-13’s motto is “kill, rape, control,” according to Robert J. Bunker, an adjunct research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College.
The gang, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, was initially formed by Salvadoran immigrants that fled to Los Angeles during the civil war in their home country.
“The gang became increasingly violent—drawing upon the Salvadoran wartime experiences of its members and their cultural use of the machete—to protect its members from Mexican-American street gangs and their rival, the hybrid 18th Street gang,” Bunker said.
A huge deportation effort in the early 2000s, which expelled thousands of MS-13 members from the United States back to El Salvador, contributed to the gang taking hold in Central America. El Salvador is now the gang’s operational base. The Justice Department estimates around 40,000 members live in Central America and 10,000 live in the United States.
“MS-13 has created a brand—like Los Zetas in Mexico—based on its reputation for engaging in unspeakable acts of brutality using machete and knife attacks against those that cross it,” Bunker said.
“This barbaric reputation greatly aids the gang in its collection of street taxes from local merchants and helps it to protect its turf and drug trade against opposing gangs who are afraid to face the ‘street terrorism’ it can wage against them.”
The gang’s primary means of income in places such as Long Island are extortion and prostitution, according to Peter Fitzhugh, deputy special agent in charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, Long Island.
He said gang members extort money from families and small businesses that are part of the community and who fear some type of reprisal. “We’re not talking about large sums of money—we’re talking about instances of a few hundred dollars,” he said.
MS-13 bolsters its ranks through recruitment in schools, often of youth coming into the United States from Central America as unaccompanied minors.
“What we’re seeing is that MS, by and large, is using the schools as recruitment centers,” Fitzhugh said. “The fear of not joining the gang is so significant that kids feel compelled, that they have no other option but to join the gang. And so obviously this is a win-win for MS, because this environment is there, and a lot of these kids are vulnerable.”
Fitzhugh said the gang’s propensity for ruthlessness and violence is its calling card.
“That’s what they use to force membership, that’s what they use to attract people who are like-minded,” he said. “It’s the level at which they execute their gang justice that really is eye-opening—baseball bats, machetes, knives. It’s really ruthless stuff,” he said.
Bunker said the surge of younger members coming into the gang, “out to make their bones,” has only served to exacerbate the levels of violence.
Epoch Times reporter Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.