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A reputed leader of international gang MS-13 brought other high-ranking members of the group to Las Vegas in order to distribute drugs and sell guns, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Federal agents seized at least 10 pounds of “pure or basically pure” methamphetamine from two of the men led to the valley by 43-year-old Adali Arnulfo Escalante-Trujillo, identified as a “shot caller” for the gang, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaheen Torgoley.
When his Las Vegas home was raided this month, his girlfriend, identified as Heidi Garcia, tried to flush the drugs down a toilet, the prosecutor said during a court hearing, adding that she could soon face state charges.
Defense attorney David Fischer said Escalante-Trujillo has lived in Las Vegas for 30 years, including the past 16 at the same address. Escalante-Trujillo has worked in the masonry business for the past seven years, the attorney said.
The prosecutor said tattoos on Escalante-Trujillo’s chest and MS-13 letters displayed in his home in the blue and white colors of the Salvadoran flag proved that he was deeply involved with the gang.
Of the 21 counts leveled against 13 people in Nevada, Escalante-Trujillo faces 20, including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, distribution of a controlled substance, and conspiracy to deal in firearms without a license.
While he was questioned by investigators last week, Escalante-Trujillo, also known as “Buchaca,” spoke of plans to return to El Salvador, where he was born, “to live out the rest of his life,” the prosecutor said.
MS-13 is a transnational gang made up primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador. MS-13 has been in the U.S. since at least the 1980s.
Last week, President Donald Trump announced that key figures of the gang had been indicted in New York and Nevada. Some of them face charges of terrorism, murder, kidnapping, and drug trafficking.
The arrests stem from allegations that date to July 2019, a little more than two months after three other suspected MS-13 gang members were indicted in Nevada on murder and racketeering charges in connection with the kidnapping and slaying of a rival gang member.
Torgoley said that one of the men indicted along with Escalante-Trujillo, Alvaro Ernesto Perez Carias, also known as “Toro,” 50, of Los Angeles, was a founding member of the gang.
In January, Escalante-Trujillo told an undercover agent that another man also facing weapons charges, Rosalio Andres Siguenza-Romero, “could get the purchaser whichever firearms the purchaser wished,” according to the indictment.
Prosecutors allege that he had direct contact with a founding member of MS-13 in El Salvador led the gang’s “Hollywood Locos” clique out of Las Vegas, and bragged about violent acts committed by MS-13 and its ties to the Mexican Mafia and “nearly all Mexican Cartels.”
After Tuesday’s hearing, U.S. Magistrate Nancy Koppe ordered Escalante-Trujillo detained pending trial.