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An MS-13 gang member was sentenced this week to more than 17 years in federal prison for his role in several brutal machete attacks at apartment complexes in Dallas, announced  U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox and Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Arnold Stephen Miralda-Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in February to RICO conspiracy, and was sentenced Tuesday afternoon to 210 months in federal prison, an upward departure by U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle. Mr. Miralda-Cruz is the last of seven defendants sentenced in the case.

“MS-13 is one of the most vicious gangs operating in America today,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “When machete-wielding gang members terrorize our streets, they will be met with certain justice. The Northern District of Texas thanks our law enforcement partners, led by Homeland Security Investigations, who worked tirelessly to take seven brutal men out of our community.”

“With this sentencing, seven MS-13 gang members responsible for multiple brutal attacks in the Dallas area have now been brought to justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt.  “The Department of Justice will not waver in its commitment to dismantle and destroy the scourge of MS-13.”

“This sentencing brings an end to the violence posed by these criminal gang members who have inflicted mayhem in our communities without any remorse or empathy for anyone,” said Christopher M. Miller, deputy agent in charge Homeland Security Investigations Dallas. “The violent crimes this thug and his cohorts committed for the sake of street credibility and their gang’s reputation has ended with this illegal perpetrator behind bars.”

According to court documents, the defendants – all El Salvadorian and Honduran nationals in the United States illegally – admitted they belonged to MS-13, a notoriously violent transnational street gang with the creed, “kill, rob, rape, control.”  As members, the defendants were required to commit acts of violence to protect the gang’s reputation, and were urged to attack and kill rivals whenever possible.

To that end, on July 14, 2017, Mr. Miralda-Cruz and several other gang members, including codefendants Rolan Ivan Hernandez Fuentes and Jerson Gutierrez-Ramos, ambushed a rival gang member and his roommate inside an apartment complex in Dallas. Armed with machetes, knives, box cutters, and a metal bar, they struck, stabbed, and cut the victims with intent to kill. The attack left one man with his chest and neck sliced open, necessitating emergency cardiac surgery, and the other with lacerations to his face, requiring hospitalization. Following the attack, Mr. Hernandez-Fuentes licked the victims’ blood from the machete and stated that he liked the “taste of victory.” 

The following day, on July 15, 2017, Mr. Miralda-Cruz, Mr. Hernandez-Fuentes, and Mr. Gutierrez-Ramos attacked and extorted a third man outside his home in Irving. Armed with the a machete from the night before, Mr. Hernandez-Fuentes forced the victim to kneel, then kicked him and stuck him with the machete. The group demanded the victim, a heroin dealer, pay their MS-13 clique an extortion fee, a “tax,” to deal drugs in their territory.

On August 9, 2017, several gang members attacked another rival gang member at an apartment complex in Dallas, intending to kill the victim.  Armed with a sledgehammer, an icepick, a metal bar, a stick, and a knife, they chased the victim, caught him when he tripped, and then attacked him. The victim, who managed to escape, suffered stab wounds to his back and lacerations on several parts of his body, requiring hospitalization.  

On August 19, 2017 several gang members attacked and robbed another rival gang member at an apartment complex in Irving.  Hernandez-Fuentes approached the victim near a gas station and lured him to a nearby apartment complex where his fellow gang members were waiting.  After robbing the victim, they savagely beat, kicked, and hit him with a metal bat until they thought that he was dead.  The victim suffered a fractured skull and bleeding from his brain, requiring hospitalization. 

In late August, several gang members plotted twice to kill a man believed to be a member of a rival gang.  They first lured the victim to a park in Dallas, where they lay in wait with machetes and a shotgun.  The victim ultimately refused to get out of his car, and they aborted the plan to kill him.  A few days later, they renewed the plot.  At an apartment complex in Dallas, they confronted the victim with a shotgun.  Mr. Gutierrez-Ramos pointed the shotgun at the victim’s chest to shoot him, but the weapon jammed and did not fire.  The victim managed to drive away.

On September 25, 2017,  Mr. Hernandez-Fuentes, Mr. Gutierrez-Ramos, and other MS-13 gang members went to Running Bear Park in Irving to ambush and kill a victim whom they believed to be a rival gang member.  Armed with machetes, sticks, and a shotgun, they lured the victim to the park under the guise that they were going to buy a tattoo machine from him.  The victim, however, unexpectedly arrived at the park with three friends.  Nonetheless, the victims were lured to the back of the park where the armed gang was hiding in the woods and waiting to spring.  When the victims arrived near the wooded area, the armed gang confronted them and forced them to kneel.

A brutal attack ensued as the assailants hacked at the four victims with their machetes.  One male victim escaped unscathed.  During the attack, Hernandez-Fuentes hit one male victim with the shotgun and told him not to “mess with the mara (gang).”  At some point, Hernandez-Fuentes got distracted, and the victim ran away.  Hernandez-Fuentes fired at the victim but missed, and the victim escaped by swimming across a pond.  Another male victim also escaped after he sustained a serious cut to his arm, which required hospitalization.  The female victim, however, was not so fortunate.  She was savagely maimed, sustaining multiple deep lacerations to her arms, hands, and leg from the machete attack.  The female victim, who was left for dead badly bleeding in the park, sustained permanent and life-threatening injuries, which required extensive medical care and hospitalization.  After the attack, the attackers drove away with their weapons and property stolen from the victims.  The police arrested the attackers in the days following the savage assault.

Other sentences in the case are as follows:

  • Rolan Ivan Hernandez-Fuentes, aka “Tasmania,” sentenced to life in federal prison for RICO conspiracy  
  • Jerson Gutierrez-Ramos, aka “Sparky,” sentenced to 475 months in federal prison for RICO conspiracy
  • Arnold Steven Miralda-Cruz, aka “Sico,” sentenced to 210 months in federal prison for RICO conspiracy
  • Kevin Cruz, aka “Street Danger,” sentenced to 250 months in federal prison for RICO conspiracy
  • Manuel Amaya-Alvarez, aka “Chocolate,” sentenced to 240 months for two counts of attempted murder in aid of racketeering
  • Jose Armando Saravia-Romero, aka “Pinky,” sentenced to 57 months in federal prison for assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering
  • Jonathan Alexander Baires, aka “Splinter,” sentenced to 120 months for attempted murder in aid of racketeering
     

The defendants, who were in the United States illegally at the time of the crimes, may be subject to deportation after serving their sentences.

Homeland Security Investigations, the Irving Police Department, and the Dallas Police Department conducted the investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gary Tromblay and Sid Moody  are prosecuting the case with Trial Attorney Julie Finocchiaro of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.

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