Mara Salvatrucha 13, or MS-13 for short, is an international gang that has operated in the Atlanta, Georgia, area for at least 10 years. During a long-term investigation that ended in 2010, more than 75 MS-13 members were arrested, charged, and/or deported.
MS-13 members were organized into “cliques,” or groups, that operated as MS-13 units. Each clique had a leader, often called “the first word,” who conducted weekly meetings. At the meetings, members discussed crimes against rival gang members and their plans to retaliate against rivals.
The clique leaders collected dues from the gang members, which they used to buy guns and post bail for jailed gang members. Clique leaders often sent money back to MS-13 leaders in their home countries of El Salvador and Honduras, and they also reported back to MS-13 leaders in those countries about MS-13 activities in Atlanta.
Gwinnett and DeKalb
The gang members claimed Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties as their home turf, where they committed murders, attempted murders, and armed robberies.
Evidence from the investigation showed that Miguel Guevara, a/k/a Blacky, was a member of MS-13 in 2006. He decided that he wanted to become less active in the gang and sought permission to “calm down” from the leader of his clique, Miguel Alvarado-Linares, a/k/a Joker.
Alvarado-Linares discussed this with other members at a meeting of the clique. Everyone agreed that Guevara would have to shoot a suspected rival gang member before he could become inactive. They went to the nightclub El Chaparral in DeKalb County, where they waited outside for rival gang members.
At closing time they saw Celso Villalobos and Angel Gonzales walk out of the club and drive away in a Toyota. As the car left the parking lot, several MS-13 members followed. The Toyota went north on I-85. Guevara was in the passenger side of a Ford truck behind the Toyota. The truck pulled alongside the car and Guevara fired multiple shots. He hit the passenger, Gonzales, in the head. He also struck the driver, Villalobos, in the arm. Gonzales died of the gunshot wound to the head.
Earn more respect
Irvin Mejia Cruz and Walter Aldana belonged to the same clique of MS-13. Mejia Cruz told Aldana that he would have to shoot someone if he wanted to earn more respect within the gang. Mejia Cruz then gave a gun to Aldana. Aldana left Mejia Cruz’s house and saw a group of 13- and 14-year-olds gathered in a nearby park.
Aldana asked, “Who do you claim?” (meaning, what gang do you belong to?). Without waiting for an answer, he fired into the crowd and hit a 14-year-old boy in the back. Aldana then called out “Mara Salvatrucha” as he ran away. He returned the gun to Mejia Cruz. The 14-year-old boy had surgery to have the bullet removed.
Miguel Guevara has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after he pleaded guilty. Irvin Mejia Cruz was sentenced to nine years in prison. Walter Aldana got 10 years in prison.
So far, 22 defendants have been convicted for their part in the violent Atlanta activities of MS-13.