Two senior members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) criminal street gang, José Balmore Romero and Erwin Alexander Melgar, were found guilty in May 2023 of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Additionally, Melgar was convicted of two counts of distribution of methamphetamine. Their sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 2023, where they are facing a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Gang Members Violate RICO
During the four-day trial, the prosecution presented evidence proving that between 2013 and 2014, Balmore was the shot-caller for MS-13 in Los Angeles, overseeing more than 20 gang factions throughout the city. As the leader, he supervised the gang's collection of “taxes” and “rent,” which it extorted from different individuals and businesses around LA. Some of this money was then given to members of the Mexican Mafia. Balmore was also in charge of doling out orders to MS-13 members, oversaw their drug trafficking activities, and organized gang meetings to discuss how they could work to strengthen their organization.
The evidence presented at trial also showed that Melgar was the shot-caller for the Normandie faction of MS-13 in LA, which is based out of Koreatown. He gave orders and directed their extortion collection and drug sales as their leader. Members of MS-13 not only conducted narcotics trafficking and violent crimes around LA, but they also engaged in various criminal actions, such as extortion of street-level drug dealers and blameless business owners. Under Melgar's direction, MS-13 also operated “casitas,” which are illegal after-hours clubs that sold illicit narcotics and alcohol, bringing in serious revenue for the gang.
Hiring a Skilled Defense Attorney
Attorney Vitaly Sigal of Sigal Law Group is a skilled defense attorney who understands both the state and federal consequences of a RICO case, as well as drug trafficking charges. He will work meticulously to gather evidence and witness testimony, guaranteeing the best possible outcome for your case. Call (818) 325-0579 today for a free consultation.