At the end of last week, the United States Attorney’s office issued a press release. The posting of it, as we have discussed in the past, as recently as last week, is apparently deemed necessary in LawenforcementLand to let us know that they are doing their job and arresting people.
Whether those people turn out to be guilty, of course, is another issue. In the meantime, of course, they will be presumed innocent…and assumed guilty.
To be fair, though, the federal prosecutor’s office generally gets the convictions that they are after.
As I recall, this was released around the same time I was getting posts on my IPhone that they were trying to find some gang member who apparently had escaped from federal custody. Yes, that would be the same office.
But I digress.
According to the release, two gentlemen from Cambridge were among 56 alleged “MS-13” gang members, leaders and associates who were taken into custody by law enforcement Friday morning.
Erick Argueta Larios, aka “Lobo,” 31, and Herzzon Sandoval, aka “Casper,” 34, both of Cambridge, had been indicted on federal racketeering conspiracy charges.
According to the Wicked Local Cambridge site, some of these conspiracy charges relate to murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, and drug trafficking. Many of those caught in this alleged web have also been charged with drug trafficking, firearm violations, immigration offenses, and fraudulent document charges.
On Friday morning, over 400 federal, state and local law enforcement officers carried out the arrests of the numerous alleged “MS-13” leaders, members, and associates in the Boston area, including in the cities of Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, Lynn, Revere and Somerville. Fifteen of those indicted were already in custody on federal, state or immigration charges.
According to court documents, law enforcement claims that the “ MS-13” gang became the first, and remains the only, street gang to be designated by the United States government as a “transnational criminal organization.” It is said to be one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States (over 6,000 reputed members), with a presence in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia, as well as over 30,000 members internationally, mostly in El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala.
The government further claims that, at least in Massachusetts, “MS-13” is largely composed of immigrants and descendants of immigrants from El Salvador and has members operating throughout the Commonwealth, with higher concentrations in Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, Lynn, Revere, and Somerville. Law enforcement also says that violence is a central tenet of MS-13, as evidenced by its core motto — “mata, viola, controla,” translated as, “kill, rape, control.”
Most of the purported violence is said to be directed against rival gangs and anyone who perceived to have disrespected “MS-13”. The government also claims that under the strict rules of MS-13, as communicated to the local “cliques” by the leaders of MS-13 in El Salvador prospective members must engage in significant violent criminal activity on behalf of the criminal organization, usually the killing of a rival gang member, in order to become a full-fledged member of MS-13, known as a “homeboy.”
The indictments go on to list many alleged instances of fraud, drug-related and violent criminal activity.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Gang Cases And Profiling
You may have gathered that I have an issue with these types of releases. You would have gathered correctly.
First of all, especially during this particular political season, I think it helps pave the way to anti-foreigner anger which is being fanned enough without the help from law enforcement.
Community safety aside, racial stereotyping and mass arrests are commonplace in cases involving alleged gang activity.
To represent an alleged gang member, it is particularly important to have seasoned and experienced defense counsel. I was approached to add a chapter on a book entitled Strategies For Defending Gang Crimes some time ago. In it I discussed issues to keep in mind for an attorney handling one of these types of cases for the first time.
As you can tell by this story, gang-related cases can include almost any kind of crime, from drugs to arson to murder. Often, the clientele and witnesses both for and against the defense also present certain issues that do not often come up in other types of cases. One such issue would be the rather far-reaching and omni-present allegation of a Conspiracy.
Alleging a conspiracy is a great way for a prosecutor to hold many people responsible what a few others actually did.
We know that law enforcement is still doing these investigations. Too often, those who are caught in the web of a criminal investigation do not understand their rights to protect themselves. Too often, because of the favorable press releases, law enforcement jumps the gun to present charges against a large quantity of people. Too often, the wrong people are “caught”.
Anybody of, frankly, any race can find him or herself in that position and not knowing what to do about it.
A word of advice…retain the services of someone who does know before it is too late.