Newest indictment in opposition to MS-13 gang members in central Ohio entails murders and racketeering

Beth Burger The Columbus Dispatch

A teen in Columbus was chopped up 69 times and dumped in a shallow grave in a Northeast Side park — one of four Columbus homicides and one Perry County homicide documented in a 62-page indictment announced Thursday by the U.S. Attorney‘s office in Columbus against members of the MS-13 gang.

The latest of three indictments details crimes dating back to 2006 in central Ohio involving MS-13, one of the most violent international gangs. Out of the 23 people indicted Thursday, 16 are facing murder-related charges with maximum sentences if convicted that could be life in prison or death.

All 23 people in the latest indictment are facing racketeering charges. That makes this the second racketeering case prosecuted by the Southern District of Ohio in the district‘s history, said local U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman. For those not facing murder charges, the maximum penalty could be 20 years on racketeering charges.

“No one wants the kind of violence that this gang has as its calling card,” Glassman said of MS-13, citing murders and other violent acts often committed using machetes and knives.

A total of 29 people are now charged in the three indictments for crimes committed in central Ohio as members or associates of the Salvadoran-based organization.

The five homicides documented in the latest indictment:

• In December 2006, 25-year-old Jose Mendez, a suspected confidential informant, was killed in Perry County. Mendez, who had lived in Columbus for eight years, was fatally shot and his body was found in a line of trees along Harrison Township Road 169.

• In November 2008, Ramon Ramos, 27, was shot and killed outside a South Side bar. He was shot three times, including once in the head.

• In early December 2015, the bodies of two men were found in shallow graves in Innis Park on the Northeast Side. Wilson Villeda, 17, had his left arm severed from some of the 69 chops to his body. A few days later, the body of 38-year-old Carlos Serrano-Ramos, suspected rival gang member, was found with multiple stab wounds.

• In December 2016, Salvador Martinez Diaz, 25, a suspected rival gang member, was found in the 4400 block of Melrose Avenue on the city’s East Side with numerous gunshot wounds including one to the face.

President Donald Trump described MS-13 as “one of the most violent and vicious gangs anywhere in the world,” and has cited the gang as a reason why immigration laws should be more strict.

Only two of the 29 indicted in the U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio in Columbus entered the country legally, receiving temporary protected status allowed Salvadorans as a result of a 2001 earthquake there. Trump recently revoked that status for Salvadorans, giving them until next year to leave. The rest of those indicted entered the country illegally, prosecutors told The Dispatch.

FBI Cincinnati Division Special Agent in Charge Angela Byers said investigators believe many of the crimes committed by MS-13 have not been reported. Anyone with information about those crimes can call an FBI hotline at.


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