GREENBELT, Md. — An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore, the FBI’s Baltimore field office and the Prince George’s County Police Department resulted in a 28-year federal prison sentence, followed by five years of supervised release, for a Maryland MS-13 street gang leader for his part in a racketeering conspiracy that included murder. Bryan Alexander Torres, 29, of Adelphi, received the sentence at the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on Sept. 13 for the conspiracy related to his participation in the Weedams Locos Salvatrucha clique of the MS-13 street gang.
The judge also ordered Torres to pay restitution in the full amount of the victims’ losses, including funeral costs incurred by one victim’s estate.
“As an influential member of MS-13, Bryan Alexander Torres wreaked havoc throughout Maryland communities for far too long,” said HSI Baltimore Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris. “His abhorrent actions earned him every day of this 28-year prison sentence. HSI Baltimore will continue to work with our partners to alleviate the devastation caused by any criminal enterprise that seeks to cause harm to the people of our communities.”
According to the investigation, La Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as MS-13, is an international criminal organization composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador, with members operating in Maryland and throughout the United States. MS-13 members are organized in cliques — smaller groups that operate in specific cities or regions — and are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the gang and against rivals. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as chavalas, whenever possible. MS-13 members earn promotions and improved standing within the gang for participating in attacks on rival gang members, often at the direction of MS-13 leadership.
The investigation revealed that Torres held the rank of “First Word,” or leader of the Weedams Locos Salvatrucha clique, which operated primarily in Adelphi.
According to the investigation, Torres and other Weedams Locos Salvatrucha members, including Franklyn Edgardo Sanchez, met at a park in Prince George’s County in August 2020. There, they agreed to murder a victim they suspected of cooperating with law enforcement and to whom Sanchez owed a debt.
Sanchez was armed with a revolver and Torres handed a second revolver to another MS-13 member, instructing that person to shoot first when their victim arrived. Sanchez and the other member each fired multiple shots at the victim, who fell to the ground. Sanchez then pistol-whipped and stabbed the victim with a knife. Torres then stabbed him with a screwdriver. Torres and other Weedams Locos Salvatrucha members dragged the victim’s body to a stream and left him there.
As he was leaving the woods, Sanchez noticed he was bleeding and became concerned that he may had left his DNA on the victim’s body. To prevent the discovery of DNA or other evidence the murder, Torres called Weedams Locos Salvatrucha members, including co-defendant Agustino Eugenio Rivas Rodriguez, and ordered them to bring shovels and bury the victim’s body, which authorities later recovered.
The investigation further revealed that in June 2020, Torres conspired with other MS-13 members to kidnap and murder a female member of the rival 18th Street gang. Torres and Rivas Rodriguez ordered subordinate members of the gang to gather at a house with firearms in preparation for the murder. Another MS-13 associate remained at a separate location with the intended victim. While preparing to follow through with their orders to kill their target, police arrived on scene and interrupted the plan.
According to the investigation, Torres also directed the collection of extortion payments, or rents, from at least two victims on behalf of the clique. The victims making extortion payments to the gang did so under the threat of death or bodily injury by Weedams Locos Salvatrucha members.
Finally, the investigation revealed that Torres participated in money laundering by transferring gang funds obtained through extortion activities to MS-13 members and associates in El Salvador. In one instance, Torres accepted a delivery of rent payments that had just been collected from three brothels by a Weedams Locos Salvatrucha member, with the intent to use the funds to promote MS-13’s illegal activities, including extortion.
Co-defendants Sanchez, who is 26, and Hernan Yanes-Rivera, 22, both of Adelphi, and Rivas Rodriguez, who is 25 and from Silver Spring, were sentenced to 28 years, 22 years and 16 years in federal prison, respectively, for their roles in the racketeering conspiracy.
HSI Baltimore encourages anyone with information about MS-13 or illegal gang activity to provide their tips to law enforcement via the HSI Tip Line. The HSI Tip Line number is 866-DHS-2423 (866-347-2423). The HSI Tip Line is operational 24 hours a day.
This case is also part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multiagency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
This case is also part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening Project Safe Neighborhoods based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.
This investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore, FBI Baltimore, and the Prince George’s County Police Department with significant assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Baltimore field office, and the Montgomery County Police Department.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.