A violence vacuum left after 61 MS-13 members were arrested in 2016 was filled by MS-13 leaders coming up from New York to re-assert the gang on the streets of East Boston and neighboring communities through murders, beatings and the recruiting of local high-school students from Central America, federal prosecutors say.
Next week, one of the new generation of MS-13 leaders faces sentencing in US District Court in Boston following his guilty plea earlier this year to a RICO charge related to his activities in the Boston area, which federal officials say include orchestrating and watching the brutal stabbing of a teen at the bottom of a stairway at East Boston's Memorial Stadium just 11 months after the roundup. He also helped organize what was supposed to be a murder in April 2018 at Belle Isle Marsh in East Boston, but which left the victim only grazed and unconscious when the shooter's gun misfired.
In a sentencing memorandum filed yesterday, federal prosecutors say Manuel "Rocky" Adan Yanez Cruz, 23, who lived in an apartment on Meridian Street at West Eagle Street in East Boston, should be sent away for at least 15 years. His attorneys have yet to file their own recommendations to the judge before his sentencing, scheduled for Thursday.
In their memorandum, prosecutors say Yanez Cruz was a leader of an MS-13 sub-gang called Huntington Locos Salvatrucha (HLS), which had been based in New York, but which sent Yanez Cruz, Edwin "Duende" Amaya Mejia Alvarado and others up to Boston to re-start MS-13 here, in part by murdering perceived members of the rival 18th Street Gang, in part by renewing the gang's recruitment of high-school teens.
Despite the large volume of individuals and cliques caught up in the historical January 2016 takedown, two cliques lay beyond the reach (and at the time, the eye) of law enforcement's widely cast net - HLS and the Sykos clique. ... In fact, HLS - historically one of the largest and most violent MS-13 cliques in New York and other areas in the country - largely had had no prior presence in the Boston area. Yet in the wake of that massive takedown, and as those MS-13's members prosecutions were underway, a new era of MS-13 violence was conceived. Like an unstoppable Hydra, new MS-13 members sprouted up with ambition to reconstitute the gang's hold in the Boston area, generate new cliques, and elevate their own individual gang status. ...
By August 2018, investigators were learning increasing information about two cliques that had been rising in power and reputation in the post-2016 vacuum, i.e., HLS and the Sykos, as well as the individuals heading them (which, for HLS, included the Defendant). Initial information suggested that these growing cliques might be connected to the startling violence that appeared to be intensifying in late spring/early summer 2018. ...
A cold reality set in as investigators began learning more and more information over the following year about the Defendant, HLS, and the Skyos clique: while law enforcement thought that they had significantly dismantled MS-13 after the 2016 takedown, the Defendant and others had been actively working—including within the Boston school system - to rebuild it and execute upon its violent mission. Following the Defendant's state arrest, multiple cooperating witnesses detailed how the Defendant, alongside co-HLS clique leader Duende, sought to recruit them into HLS - including at school - and groom them for violence, instructing them on MS-13's rules, objectives, and punishments.
According to the feds, recruitment efforts included setting up a cafeteria table at East Boston High School that only MS-13 members could sit at.
Through his active recruitment of local high schoolers into MS-13, the Defendant promoted a culture of violence. Specifically, the Defendant (alongside his co-clique leader) lured young men into the gang and groomed them for aggression, teaching them MS-13's mandates on eliminating perceived gang threats (whether rivals or cooperators), encouraging them to commit violence to achieve elevated gang status and reputation, and governing through fear by warning of the consequences of violating MS-13's ordinates (namely, beatings or death). ...
Amaya himself was arrested in 2019, pleaded guilty to a RICO charge in August and faces sentencing in February.
The murder of Luis Fernando Orellana Ruano, prosecutors charge, gave Yanez Cruz the sort of MS-13 cred he needed to recruit new members.
Yanez Cruz and other MS-13 leaders - including those in the gang's home base of El Salvador - became convinced that Orellana Ruano was an 18th Street Gang member - he was not, the feds say - and spent several months discussing exactly how and where to kill him. At one point, prosecutors say, Yanez Cruz cautioned somebody he knew who also knew Orellana Ruano to keep his distance from the teen to avoid meeting the same fate being planned for him.
Around 11 p.m. on Dec. 24, Orellana Ruano was somehow lured to Memorial Stadium where members of both the Huntington and Sykos sub-gangs - Sykos was a Boston-based "clique" with members who had escaped the 2016 dragnet - then stabbed him more than a dozen times in the back, chest and neck. Yanez Cruz was there, both to watch and - on orders from MS-13 leaders in El Salvador - to jump in should something go wrong, prosecutors say.
This past February, a local MS-13 member was sentenced to life for being one of the actual murderers, of both Orellana Ruano and of another teen in Lynn by the Sykos clique in July, 2018 - a murder the feds say Yanez Cruz was informed about beforehand, but did nothing to stop.
Following the East Boston murder:
[T]he Defendant then remorselessly used that murder to lure more young men into MS-13, which further aggravates the heinousness of the offense. Put another way, participating in Ruano's horrific murder did not deter the Defendant from MS-13's mission – he became further entrenched in it. And most disturbingly, this was not the only time the Defendant was connected to murder. In the two years following Ruano's death, this Defendant was connected to other senseless acts of violence that further underscore the need for a sentence that will protect the public, deter future crime, promote respect for the law, and provide just punishment.
These include a September, 2018 arrest for an incident in which Yanez Cruz whipped out a knife ran after a member of a rival gang on a public street. He was arrested on state charges for that, was convicted, then went before a federal judge after ICE tried to get him kicked out of the country. But he lied to that judge about his gang involvement and he had the immigration charges dropped, although he was still ordered held on the state assault charges.
At his June 2019 removal proceedings, the Defendant committed perjury and made numerous false representations to the court in his attempt to gain lawful status and remain in the United States. Among other things, the Defendant brazenly lied about his association with Duende/Amaya, his connection to MS-13, and even about the alias he was soon thereafter indicted under. ...
After the June 25, 2019 decision, which credited his testimony but did not grant him asylum, the Defendant filed a motion to continue the immigration proceedings so that he could pursue a Special Immigration Juvenile Visa or I-360 application. Thankfully, by the time the immigration court ruled on that request, the Defendant had already been indicted in this case, a fact that the immigration court noted as a significant factor when denying further relief in August 2019.
Prosecutors note that Yanez Cruz is the third local MS-13 member just this year to plead guilty to RICO charges after getting a break, at least initially, by lying to a judge in deportation hearings - including the one sentenced to life for actually stabbing Orellana Ruano.