Crime & Courts

Feds release new documents in MS-13 probe around Charlotte

Documents released Thursday in the sweeping criminal investigation of a reputed Latino gang in Charlotte reveal new details of the federal probe.

Affidavits unsealed by special agents from the FBI and Homeland Security indicate that investigators used wiretaps and surveillance cameras to track targets believed to be part of MS-13, an international gang with strong criminal ties in Charlotte, North Carolina and along the East Coast.

More than three dozen reputed gang members face racketeering and other charges in connection with a series of assaults and killings.

One search warrant details FBI interest in Raul “Guanaco” Guardado, the reputed leader of Locotes Salvatrucha, a Charlotte clique of the MS-13.

FBI and other law enforcement officers raided Guardado’s home at Oberlin Lane in Charlotte on May 20, the same day 37 alleged members of the gang were taken into custody. They were indicted a month later on charges ranging from murder to extortion, drug dealing and robbery. Several face the death penalty.

According to the FBI affidavit, agents recovered several weapons, computers, phones and gang-related documents from Guardado’s home, which the FBI says was the site of frequent gang meetings.

On June 23, 2013, Guardado was on hand when a former Locotes leader shot and killed a rival gang member in a Charlotte club, the affidavit says.

In one gang meeting, Guardado and others helped a gang member flee the city after he committed a June 2014 killing. In another, they discussed sending money to El Salvador in return for cocaine to sell.

The FBI tapped Guardado’s phone for 30 days, the document indicates. During that time, Guardado routinely discussed gang business with MS-13 leaders in El Salvador or in a North Carolina prison, the affidavit says.

According to the Homeland Security affidavit, federal investigators targeted alleged MS-13 gang member Carlos Almonte as part of the overall gang probe.

On June 26, 2014, law enforcement officers raided the Shamrock Avenue home of Almonte, who at the time was on parole for a conspiracy to commit armed robbery conviction. Officers saw a Latino man drop something in a trash can behind the house. It turned out to be a loaded .32-caliber revolver, the affidavit says.

Inside the home, the affidavit says, they found gang-related documents and other materials as well as a black Bible in which the names and nicknames of gang members were spelled out on the cover.

Almonte later confessed to being the head of another MS-13 clique in Charlotte, Centrales Loco Salvatrucha, the document says. Homeland Security and other officers sought a warrant to search Almonte’s phone, which they believe contained substantial information to help the case.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS