MS-13 gang members sentenced to life in prison

Courtesy photoGang signs: Dozens of MS-13 gang members were arrested in a 2008 sweep.

Courtesy photoGang signs: Dozens of MS-13 gang members were arrested in a 2008 sweep.

Five MS-13 gang members who wreaked havoc throughout The City by fatally slashing and shooting real and imagined rivals were sentenced Thursday to life in prison.

Federal Judge William Alsup repeatedly condemned the gang’s vicious behavior — which resulted in the murders of several bystanders merely suspected of being enemies.

“The violent and deadly nature of these offenses committed by this enterprise … all of these warrant a life sentence,” Alsup told Moris “Slow Pain” Flores, 22, one of the gang’s leaders.

But the judge also acknowledged that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents mismanaged their informants, one of whom lied about his role in eight murders in Honduras, scuttling his planned testimony.

Another informant admitted committing crimes even while aiding federal investigators.

“There are some uncomfortable aspects as to the way this investigation was run by the agency,” Alsup said. But he discounted defense attorneys’ claims that informants coerced their clients to commit violence.

“We have to be careful not to hold these informants to too high a standard,” Alsup said in reference to any informant’s credibility.

Alsup sentenced Flores; Marvin “Psycho” Carcamo, 31; Angel Noel “Peloncito” Guevara, 30; Jonathan “Soldado” Cruz-Ramirez, 22; and Erick “Spooky” Lopez, 23, to life in federal prison.

Other than a passing word or smile to each other, the five showed little emotion as they sat listening, garbed, ironically, in jail uniforms matching the colors of their Norteño archrivals.

Lopez, for instance, shot and killed Ernad Joldic and Philip Ng after mistaking them for rival Norteños because they were wearing red.

A sixth defendant, Guillermo “Sparky” Herrera, 22, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 7 and also faces a life sentence.

All six men were convicted in late August after a five-month trial of racketeering conspiracy and other charges, including three 2008 murders.

Federal authorities who had been targeting the gang’s 20th Street clique swept in and arrested dozens of suspected members in late 2008. Prosecutors said the gang committed dozens of shootings and stabbings as it sought to expand its reach in San Francisco, attacking rivals and extorting low-level criminals in their territory.

Thursday morning’s sentencing capped off more than a day of hearings that included testimony from victims’ family members.

Alsup said Flores — whom prosecutors linked to the Joldic and Ng slayings and said ordered a hunt that led to the fatal mistaken identity killing of a 14-year-old boy later that year — had a job, “a nice home” and “a nice car,” but “chose a life of murder.”

“He has murder in his heart and there is no potential for rehabilitation,” Alsup said.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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