MS-13 Gang Member Sentenced to 26 Years in Federal Prison for a Racketeering Conspiracy, Including a Murder in Maryland

Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis today sentenced MS-13 member Kevin Alexander Castillo Calderon, a/k/a “Fantasma,” “Ghost,” “Eterno,” and “Josue Argueta Gonzalez,” age 25, of Adelphi, Maryland, to 26 years in federal prison for a racketeering conspiracy, including a murder, connected to his participation in La Mara Salvatrucha, a transnational criminal enterprise also known as MS-13.

The sentence was announced by Erek L. Barron, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland; Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting Special Agent in Charge R. Joseph Rothrock of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations Baltimore; and Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department.

MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador and other central American countries. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, operate throughout the United States, including in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Castillo Calderon and his co-defendants were members and associates of the Weedams Locos Salvatruchs (“WLS”) clique of MS-13.

Members of MS-13 were expected to protect the name, reputation, and status of the gang from rival gang members and other persons, at all times, using any means necessary to force respect from those who showed disrespect, including acts of intimidation and violence. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, often referred to as “chavalas,” whenever possible. Participation in criminal activity by a member, particularly in violent acts directed at rival gangs or as directed by gang leadership, increases the respect accorded to that member, resulting in that member maintaining or increasing his position in the gang, and opens the door to promotion to a leadership position.

As detailed in court documents, on August 8, 2020, WLS members, including Castillo Calderon, WLS leader Brayan Alexander Torres and Franklyn Sanchez, were gathered at a park in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Castillo Calderon, Torres, Sanchez and other WLS members agreed to murder Victim 4, who was suspected of cooperating with law enforcement and to whom Sanchez owed a debt. Sanchez and another MS-13 member murdered Victim 4, then WLS members dragged Victim 4’s body to a stream and left it there. Castillo Calderon then picked up a large rock and dropped it on Victim 4’s head. As he was leaving the woods, Sanchez was concerned that his DNA may have been left on the body. To prevent the discovery of DNA or other evidence and to hinder the investigation and prosecution of Victim 4’s murder, other WLS members were called and ordered to bring shovels to the wooded area, where they dug a hole and buried Victim 4’s body. In addition, at Torres’ direction, Castillo Calderon took the guns used to shoot Victim 4 and Victim 4’s cell phone, put them in a bag he was carrying and disposed of the evidence. Victim 4’s body was later recovered with a bullet wound to the head.

Castillo Calderon was also responsible for collecting extortion payments, or “rents,” from extortion victims on behalf of WLS, knowing that the victims making extortion payments did so under the threat of death or bodily injury by members of WLS. For example, gang members used baseball bats to impose rents and sometimes collected rent while flashing firearms or otherwise making it known that they were carrying weapons.

Brayan Alexander Torres a/k/a “Spooky,” age 29, and Franklyn Edgardo Sanchez, a/k/a “Freddy,” “Magic,” “Miclo,” and “Delinquente,” age 26, both of Adelphi, Maryland, were each previously sentenced to 28 years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution in the full amount of the victims’ losses, including any funeral costs.

Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement. The FBI and Homeland Security Investigations both have nationwide tiplines that you can call to report what you know. You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or you can call HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

These cases are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

These cases are also Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigations. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

United States Attorney Barron and Acting Assistant Attorney General Argentieri commended the FBI, HSI and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in the investigation and thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and the Montgomery County Police Department for their assistance. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Crespo and Trial Attorney Christopher Taylor of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who are prosecuting the federal case.