Four Charlotte-area members of the El Salvadoran gang MS-13 were convicted on Tuesday of federal racketeering charges.
Miguel Zelaya, 20; Luis Ordonez-Vega, 36; Jorge Sosa, 24; and William Gavidia, 23, were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity.
Zelaya and Ordonez-Vega were both convicted of murder in aid of racketeering in connection with two separate killings. Sosa was convicted of attempted murder in the aid of racketeering. They also faced state charges in connection with the crimes.
The four men were among 37 members of MS-13 charged with RICO conspiracy following an investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte. The group of state, federal and local law enforcement agencies seeks to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.
“Today’s guilty verdicts underscore that even though gang membership may in some ways ‘protect’ gangsters from outsiders, it certainly won’t protect them from the vast reach of the US. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners,” said Jill Westmoreland Rose, United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Thirty of the other gang members who were charged have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Zelaya, Ordonez-Vega, Gavidia and Sosa will be held in jail while they await sentencing.
From 2009 until about May 2015, the four men were counted among the 6,000 U.S. members of MS-13, according to the release. The gang’s members are mostly immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador and other Central and Latin American countries. Gang member pay dues that fund criminal activity in the United States and abroad. They’re also expected to protect the name and reputation of the gang.
Zelaya, who also goes by “Most Wanted” and “Ne Ne” is a member of MS-13’s “Coronados Little Cycos Salvatrucha” clique. On Dec. 18, 2013, he shot and killed Jose Orlando Ibarra, an associate of The Latin Kings, a rival gang, the release said.
Ordonez-Vega, also known as “Big Boy,” is a member of the Brentwood Locos Salvatrucha” clique, according to the news release. On June 6, 2013, Ordonez-Vega shot and killed Noel Navarro Hernandez in a strip mall parking lot in Charlotte, believing the victim was a member of a rival gang.
Sosa, who goes by “Koki” and “Loco” is a member of the “Charlotte Locotes Salvatrucha” clique. Prosecutors say he’s been involved in multiple gang-related crimes. In Feb. 2008, he flashed MS-13 gang signs at a rival gang member’s mother and pointed a gun at her while they were stopped in traffic. In June, 2013, he was involved in a gang-related shooting where he and another person followed victims in a neighborhood in Charlotte and opened fire with a high-caliber rifle, the release said.
Gavidia, also know as “Duro” is also a member of the “Coronados Little Cycos Salvatrucha” clique. He had often fought other gang members in clubs and admitted that he taxed drug dealers in MS-13-dominated clubs, authorities said.