On September 20 in a Boston federal court, the US Department of Justice charged Edwin Mancía Flores, alias “Shugar,” with involvement in a racketeering conspiracy related to the MS13 gang. But US authorities say that Mancía isn’t just any gang member. In fact, they accuse the leader of the MS13‘s Everett Loco Salvatrucha “clique” of directing the gang’s efforts to consolidate its presence on the US East Coast from a prison in El Salvador.
Edwin Mancía Flores made a call to the United States from an unidentified Salvadoran prison on December 13, 2015. On the other end of the line, in Richmond, Virginia, was José Martínez Castro, alias “Chucky,” the leader of the Everett Loco Salvatrucha clique who was appointed by the national leadership of the MS13 to expand the gang’s East Coast “program” from the Carolinas to the suburbs of Boston.
In the call, Mancía — who was misidentified in the US indictment against him as Edwin “Manica” Flores — introduced himself and demanded the unity of the gang’s cliques against the “enemy’s attacks.”
“We are here as representatives of the program,” Mancía said, according to a partial transcript contained in the indictment. “One of the points that was discussed there I believe, was Unity and brotherhood that we all must share. Everyone together when the time comes to carry out some action … Many of the cliques up there are very independent and stupidly insist that this is their side, others are somewhere else with their side, and in the meanwhile, the enemy are filling up the turfs around us.”
(Excerpt from the indictment)
Mancía also gave clear instructions to the “palabreros,” or leaders, of the MS13 meeting on the call about what to do in case someone in the gang refused to comply with the demand for unity or dared to talk to the police.
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“Those sons of a bitch … unfortunately don’t understand … Because you guys know how hot things are … And be very careful … you know, with the ‘culeros’ that are ratting … Because sooner or later, the son of a bitch … always falls into the claws of the Beast … We’re going to put him on the black list,” Mancía said to the gang leaders assembled from South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts.
(Excerpt from the indictment)
According to the US indictment, Mancía is a member of the national leadership of the MS13 in El Salvador, which is known as the “ranfla” and includes the heads of the principal cliques and the larger structures known as “programs.” (See graphic below)
According to a September 29 press release from US prosecutors, “most of the MS13 cliques in Massachusetts … belonged to MS13‘s East Coast Program, and … worked both independently and cooperatively to engage in criminal activity. Such activity included drug distribution, robbery, and extortion, to obtain money for themselves and for MS13 leadership in El Salvador, and to assist one another in avoiding detection by law enforcement … [T]hese cliques held meetings to collect dues from individual MS13 members, a portion of which was then transmitted back to MS13 leadership in El Salvador, usually by wire transfer.”
(Diagram laying out the “programs” of the MS13)
Mancía’s call to Richmond happened after the end of a government-brokered gang truce in El Salvador and a resurgence of harsh anti-gang measures. In this context, the MS13 in El Salvador decided to revitalize its ties with cliques in the United States, especially in the metropolitan areas of Washington, DC and Boston.
Chucky had convened the December 2015 conference call to give instructions to increase extortion activities in the areas controlled by the gang, as well as specific orders to murder gang leaders, particularly those in Boston, who resisted following the commands the gang sent from El Salvador.
In that meeting, as InSight Crime reported, Chucky ordered the killing of (among others) Herzzon Sandoval, alias “Casper,” the leader of the East Side Locos Salvatruchos clique who had refused to obey the expansion orders from El Salvador.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) surveilled Chucky and the Everett Loco Salvatrucha clique beginning in October 2014, when bodies of suspected gang members and victims of the MS13 started to appear in the Boston metropolitan area. That investigation ended in January 2016 with a massive indictment against 56 suspected gang members accused of racketeering, murder, attempted murders and drug trafficking. As part of that probe, the FBI was able to intercept and record the conversation between Chucky and Mancía.
US authorities have previously accused imprisoned Salvadoran gang members of coordinating MS13 operations in the United States.
In 2007, federal prosecutors charged one of the main imprisoned gang leaders in El Salvador, Saúl Ángel Turcios, alias “Trece,” with offenses similar to those attributed to Mancía. Turcios was also, according to US authorities, one of the “palabreros” who supervised the gang’s expansion in Maryland at the time.
And in 2011, an investigation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and the police in Washington, DC led to the indictment of the leader of the Normandie Loco Salvatrucha clique, Moisés Humberto Rivera Luna, alias “Viejo Santos,” in an extorsion and money laundering operation in Maryland, directed from El Salvador.