A man authorities say was a leader with the violent MS-13 gang was found guilty of racketeering charges Tuesday.
The office of Acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb of Massachusetts confirms Rafael Leoner Aguirre, also known as "Tremendo," had been convicted of "conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy."
Leoner Aguirre was one of 56 alleged MS-13 members arrested in a set of Boston-area raids last year.
According to the U.S. attorney, Leoner Aguirre, an El Salvador native, entered the U.S illegally in 2013 and came to the Chelsea, Massachusetts area the following year "to provide leadership and to activate, organize and supervise" a group of lower-level gang members who lacked a leader. He allegedly posted recruitment videos on YouTube — the gang is known to recruit from within the ranks of high schools, authorities say.
Leoner Aguirre is scheduled to be sentenced on March 2, 2018. Prosecutors say that he faces as many as 20 years in prison with three years of supervised release, and that he will be subject to deportation after his release.
MS-13 is notoriously violent, with a reputation for using machetes to kill victims, according to law enforcement. In 2012, court documents show that it became the first street gang to be designated by the U.S. government as a "transnational criminal organization." It is an international gang with over 6,000 members in the U.S. and over 30,000 members internationally, mainly in El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.
Since those raids, the Trump administration has targeted MS-13, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveling to El Salvador over the summer to work with the government. In September, he said in Boston that "MS-13 is probably the most violent and ruthless gang on the streets today." He went on to praise the large operation in which Aguirre was captured.