Not directly implicated in any of the murders that led to the arrests of dozens of local MS-13 members in 2016, and deemed too young to be indicted with his homeboys, Cristian "Duende" Alvarez Hernandez was turned over to Immigration for return to his native El Salvador.
But released on bond, he took advantage of the power vacuum in the MS-13 Everett Locos Salvatrucha sub-gang and was making moves to advance in the gang when he was arrested in 2017 on RICO and gun charges. Today, a federal judge sentenced him to ten years in federal prison - with credit for the nearly five years he has already spent locked up - followed by deportation to El Salvador or three years of probation, whichever comes first. He had pleaded guilty in September.
According to a sentencing memorandum submitted by federal prosecutors, Alvarez, now 22, was a young MS-13 member when he had some sort of argument in a hallway at East Boston High School with Wilson Martinez, 15 and a member of the rival 18th Street gang.
That, authorities say, led to a series of events that ended with Martinez dead on Constitution Beach in East Boston on Sept. 7, 2015, his body stabbed 33 times, his head smashed repeatedly with rocks.
Although Alvarez did not take part directly in the murder, he played a key role beyond the initial argument, the feds say: He set up a fake Facebook page for a supposed teen-age girl who wanted to meet Martinez, which another MS-13 member then used to lure Martinez to his death.
Alvarez also came close to actually participating in another teen's murder - which would have made him eligible for a gang promotion.
Five months after Martinez's murder, local MS-13 members plotted to kill another teen who was supposedly in 18th Street - using the same Facebook invitation ploy. Prosecutors say Alvarez was invited to the murder, but he fell asleep and missed it - as did another MS-13 member. MS-13 members who remained awake surrounded Cristofer Perez de la Paz, 16, of Chelsea, on Falcon Street in East Boston on Jan. 10, 2016 and repeatedly stabbed him, except for one member, who emptied his gun into the teen.
In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said Alvarez did take part in violent attacks on 18th Street members, including hitting one in the head with a large lock at the end of a chain, stabbing another one with a knife and attacking a third with a machete.
Despite multiple run ins with law enforcement, despite being in immigration custody (sometimes for months at a time), and despite witnessing numerous fellow gang members get arrested and prosecuted, the defendant remained undeterred and resolute in his commitment to MS-13, returning to the gang lifestyle almost immediately upon each of his releases from custody. That lifestyle not only included associating with gang members but possessing weapons, the latter of which was further evidenced by images on the defendant’s phone (including pictures of firearms and ammunition atop the defendant’s bed), the incidents underlying the defendant’s immigration detentions, and even the defendant’s arrest in this case. Specifically, at the time of his arrest, the defendant possessed over 150 rounds of ammunition and at least three firearms.
Alvarez's attorney agreed to the ten-year sentence, but argued against allegations he had anything to do with Martinez's murder and that, in fact, one report by investigators based on information from informants cleared Alvarez and that one gang member convicted for both teens' murders "excluded Alvarez Hernandez from the plan to murder Mr. Martinez because he thought that Mr. Alvarez Hernandez was too young and it was a problem that Mr. Alvarez Hernandez knew Mr. Martinez from school."
The defense sentencing memo says Alvarez was really a victim of circumstance.
Born in La Palma, Chalatenango, El Salvador to a poor couple, his father abandoned him as a baby and his mother left for the US without him when he was just 5, leaving him to be raised by his older sister, just 9. His sister got pregnant at 11 and could no longer care for him. When he was 10, he was raped at a local church event.
He eventually made his way to the US, crossed the border and wound up in East Boston, where his mother and other siblings lived and where he enrolled in high school but soon found himself "constantly bullied for being small and having large ears" and because he did not speak English well. MS-13 members, like him, from El Salvador, provided him the sort of support and camaraderie he found nowhere else.
The attorney continues that Alvarez has shown during his time at a federal prison in Rhode Island that he can and is making progress:
Mr. Alvarez Hernandez has demonstrated that he will make effective use of correctional programs and trainings that are offered to him. He is actively taking courses to obtain his General Educational Development (GED). He is also receiving academic tutoring through the Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Advocacy (HOPE). He has also completed the following coursework at Wyatt: GED Prep, Anxiety Workbook, COVID-19 Anxiety Workbook, Personal Boundaries, Sleep Problems/Insomnia Issues, Substance Abuse Workbook, Adjustment to Incarceration, Criminal Lifestyles, and Basic Kitchen Standards. ... Mr. Alvarez Hernandez has also registered for a treatment program at Wyatt Detention Center and has expressed an interest in participating in drug treatment.
Mr. Alvarez Hernandez has demonstrated redeemable qualities and positive contributions to those around him. As noted in the letters provided by friends and family as well as documentation obtained from East Boston High School, where he was a student prior to his arrest, Mr. Alvarez Hernandez has demonstrated tremendous perseverance and has potential to be a productive member of his community. Letters of support are attached as Exhibit D. For example, Mr. Alvarez Hernandez has worked as a line cook at Wyatt Detention for the past year and a half. He has received impressive performance reviews. As noted by William Anderson, the Food Service Director at Wyatt Detention, Mr. Alvarez Hernandez "has been diligently working in the kitchen" and is "always willing to assist when needed and goes over and above." Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Anderson notes, "Mr. Alvarez has remained respectful to all staff and the detainee population."