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MS-13 gang members convicted of racketeering conspiracy, multiple murders, and drug trafficking

Three MS-13 gang members, Jorge Flores and Kevin Tidwell of Nashville and Jose Pineda-Caceres of Honduras, were convicted this week on several charges, including Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, drug trafficking, and destruction of evidence. The convictions come after a decade-long investigation into MS-13 gang members.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), MS-13 is a transnational gang primarily made up of Salvadoran or Central American descent with branches throughout the U.S., including Nashville. David Boling, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, said in a press release that “MS-13 members are required to follow various rules, chief among them being that cooperation with law enforcement is strictly prohibited, and it is understood within the gang that anyone who assists police will be punished with death.”

Boling further explained that “Members are also required to confront, fight, and/or kill rival gang members and to retaliate quickly and viciously against anyone who disrespects or threatens the gang’s authority, power, reputation, or control of a neighborhood.”

Jose Pineda-Caceres was convicted of murdering a victim believed to have been a rival gang member to gain entrance into MS-13 on April 6, 2016. He then murdered another victim in July of 2016. Flores and Tidwell killed a man they believed was a rival gang member on May 21, 2017. Six days later, they killed another person because he insulted MS-13. Flores was also convicted of murder in a September 2017 murder where he and other MS-13 gang members and associates lured a victim, shot them, and placed them in the trunk of a car. Flores then took the car to Cheatham County and set it on fire.

In total, the three were convicted of RICO conspiracy, five murders, multiple attempted murders in aid of racketeering, conspiracies to commit murder in aid of racketeering, firearms offenses, tampering with evidence, and drug distribution. They each face a minimum sentence of life in prison and will be sentenced in the coming months.

The three were also among a total of nine people charged in the same indictment where the other six have pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy and other charges. The six include Carlos Ochoa and Jason Sandoval of Nashville, Tennessee, Gerson Serrano-Ramirez and Juan Melendez of El Salvador, Franklin Hernandez of Honduras, and Luis Colindres of Honduras.

Boling stated that the prosecution is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force’s (OCDETF) operation. The successful convictions show that the government is committed to dismantling criminal organizations that threaten public safety.