High-Ranking MS-13 Leaders in Los Angeles Convicted in Racketeering Case

A U.S. court has found two high-ranking members of the international gang MS-13 guilty of racketeering and drug trafficking, according to the Justice Department. One of them is the group's "one-time shot-caller" in Los Angeles, who was arrested in 2015 for ordering a gang-related murder.

U.S. Department of Justice headquarters August 12 2006The U.S. Justice Department. (Photo: Coolcaesar, Wikimedia, License)José Balmore Romero, known by his alias "Porky," and Erwin Alexander Melgar, also known as "Snoopy," were convicted on a range of charges, including conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity (RICO) and engaging in drug distribution.

Balmore, identified as the overall "shot-caller," held a pivotal role in the leadership of MS-13 in Los Angeles, leading over 20 cliques in the city between 2013 and 2014.

Cliques are specific units or groups within the gang tied to a particular territory or area. There are hundreds of cliques scattered between the United States and Central America, but the number varies greatly.

According to a statement from the Justice Department, Balmore oversaw various activities of MS-13 in Los Angeles, including drug trafficking and the collection of extortionate payments referred to as "taxes" and "rent." Some of the funds collected were then distributed to members of the Mexican Mafia.

MS-13 members are involved in a broad range of violent activities. Innocent businesses often face life-threatening consequences if they do not make payments demanded by the gang.

Melgar, on the other hand, was the "shot-caller" of a specific subgroup of MS-13 based in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles. He had command over the members of this clique, the so-called Normandie, including their involvement in violent acts, as well as their participation in extortion and drug peddling.

U.S. federal prosecutors have secured nearly 30 convictions in this case, which focuses on dismantling the leadership of MS-13 in Los Angeles. Sentencing is scheduled for October 16, with potential life imprisonment for the pair.