MS-13 Member from Gaithersburg Gets 20 Years on Kidnapping Charge

A Gaithersburg man has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to kidnap as part of a complex case that involved the murder of a man believed to be a member of a rival gang, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore.

U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced Jose Israel Melendez-Rivera, aka “Liar,” 21. He is an MS-13 member who wanted to rise in the ranks of the gang, the office said.

According to his plea agreement, Melendez-Rivera illegally entered the United States in 2014 from El Salvador, where in MS-13 he held the rank of “observation,” someone who observed by the gang for potential membership.

Initially, Melendez-Rivera did not participate in gang activities when he arrived in the United States, but in December 2015, he was recruited back into the L.A. clique of the gang by an MS-13 member in El Salvador, according to the statement.

In the spring of 2016, that MS-13 member provided Melendez-Rivera with the cell phone number of co-defendant Neris Moreno-Martinez. A New Jersey resident, Moreno-Martinez was in the L.A. clique a “paro,” someone who did favors and other acts for the gang.

After talking for several months, Melendez-Rivera and Moreno-Martinez agreed to work together to accomplish MS-13 goals, the statement said.

According to the plea agreement, Moreno-Martinez wanted to achieve the rank of “chequeo,” or someone who had advanced to the final level before becoming a full-fledged member. Being a chequeo required him to participate in a murder, but he was concerned that there were not enough forests in New Jersey where he could dispose of a victim.

As detailed in the plea agreement, in the summer of 2016, Moreno-Martinez told Melendez-Rivera about the victim, Jordy Mejia, whom Moreno-Martinez alleged was a member of the rival 18th Street gang, although there is no evidence to suggest that was true.

Before Oct. 1, 2016, Moreno-Martinez created a social media account in the name “Shaila Smith.”

Between Oct. 2 and Oct. 15, 2016, Moreno-Martinez posed as Shaila Smith and through social media expressed to Mejia that Shaila Smith was romantically interested in Mejia, the statement said.

Melendez-Rivera admitted that he and co-defendant Reynaldo Alexis Granados-Vasquez, who was a paro in MS-13 at that time, were aware of the ruse and that the goal was to trick Mejia into coming to Maryland where the three planned to murder Mejia, the statement said.

According to the plea agreement, Moreno-Martinez traveled to Maryland to meet Melendez-Rivera on Oct. 15, 2016. Later that day, at the direction of Moreno-Martinez posing as Shaila Smith, Mejia also traveled to Melendez-Rivera’s address in Gaithersburg, where he was told someone would pick him up.

While Mejia waited to be picked-up, Melendez-Rivera admitted that he drove his co-defendants to a home near a wooded area where the two were to lay in wait for Mejia, then drove back to his apartment, picked up Mejia, and drove back to the wooded area where his co-defendants were waiting, the statement said.

Thinking that Melendez-Rivera was Mejia, Moreno-Martinez and Granados-Vasquez accidentally struck Melendez-Rivera with a brick or rock and Mejia then ran toward the road.

As detailed in the plea agreement, Granados-Vasquez caught up to Mejia, kicking him into a small stream, where Melendez-Rivera and Moreno-Martinez held Mejia’s head under the water, drowning him. Melendez-Rivera admitted that the three defendants then carried Mejia’s body into the woods nearby, dug a shallow grave, and then each took turns stabbing Mejia’s dead body with machetes they had brought.

Neris Moreno-Martinez, 22, of New Jersey, and Reynaldo Alexis Granados-Vasquez, aka “Fuego,” 23, of Gaithersburg, have also pleaded guilty to the kidnapping conspiracy and are scheduled to be sentenced on June 25, 2019 at 10 a.m., and on July 9, 2019, at 2 p.m., respectively.

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One Response to “MS-13 Member from Gaithersburg Gets 20 Years on Kidnapping Charge”

  1. On June 18, 2019 at 10:01 am responded with... #

    This is disgusting. Why is this being brought to America? All this energy and ingenuity…to destroy. America is not the world’s playground to carryout all the vile, violent deeds.
    Now I see why America needs to be made great again. This junk never occurred in the 80s and 90s. This is getting to the point of no return.
    I’m voting accordingly -a total 180° , I’m sick of these news stories.

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