Alleged Sureño gang members charged in SF homicide appear in court

Three alleged members of a Sureño gang centered in the Mission district made an initial appearance in federal court Thursday on charges of committing a gang-related killing July 19.

Miguel Ortiz, 27, of San Francisco; Antonio Castillo, 26, of San Bruno; and Marvin Cortez, 24, of San Francisco were charged in a Nov. 6 superseding indictment with crimes including murder in aid of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, murder conspiracy and using a gun to commit murder.

The revised grand jury indictment was unsealed Thursday after the three defendants appeared before U.S. Magistrate Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco.

It adds their names and the new homicide charge to a previous grand jury indictment filed March 6 against 14 other alleged members of the gang, known as the 19th Street Sureños.

All 17 defendants are accused of racketeering conspiracy and homicide conspiracy, among other charges.

Two of the others — Jairo Hernandez, 33, and Carlos Vasquez, 26, both of San Francisco — were accused in the original indictment of committing a fatal shooting Aug. 30, 2011.

Both homicide charges could carry a possible death penalty for those five defendants if they are convicted and if federal prosecutors decide to seek that penalty. A decision to ask for capital punishment would also require approval of the U.S. attorney general.

At Thursday's hearing, Corley ordered the three men held in custody while awaiting a future detention hearing. Their next appearance is a Nov. 20 hearing before Corley for identification of their defense lawyers.

The indictment alleges the gang operated in the area of 19th and Mission streets in San Francisco and engaged in drug dealing, robberies, and homicide and attempted homicide of enemies.

It says the gang members directed their attacks at members of rival Norteño gangs, members of their own gang who had violated rules and people who cooperated with law enforcement.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said in a news release that Ortiz, Castillo and Cortez were arrested Wednesday.

On Aug. 2, San Francisco police announced that a Miguel Ortiz, then 26, was arrested after an East Bay car chase on suspicion of committing a homicide in San Francisco two weeks earlier.

A police spokeswoman said she could not say whether the arrested suspect was the same Miguel Ortiz named in the indictment. Haag spokeswoman Lili AruazHaase said Ortiz was brought into federal custody Wednesday, but said she could not comment further.

The two homicide victims are not identified in the indictment, and ArauzHaase said she could not give any information about them.

San Francisco police reported July 19 that a man was shot at 1:30 a.m. on the block of 16th Street between Valencia and Mission streets.

The victim, who died of multiple gunshot wounds at San Francisco General Hospital that morning, was later identified by the Medical Examiner's Office as Benjamin Martinez, 28, of San Francisco.

The indictment alleges the 2011 and 2014 homicides were committed “for the purpose of gaining entrance to, and increasing and maintaining position in, the 19th Street Sureños, an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity.”

Two other defendants — Elias Chavez, 26, and Ignazio Cruz, 24, both of San Francisco — are accused of committing four attempted shooting homicides Jan. 4 for the same purpose.

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