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Lead Defendant in MS-13 Case Admits to Five Murders, Agrees to Serve Life in Prison

Two men, including the lead defendant, have agreed to plead guilty in the MS-13 racketeering case to multiple murders and serve life in prison. Two others have agreed to plead guilty and potentially serve 35-40 years in prison.

Martin Neftali Aguilar-Rivera (a/k/a Momia), 34, of Columbus, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court this morning before Chief U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr. to conspiring to commit racketeering and murder in aid of racketeering. Aguilar-Rivera accepted responsibility for participating in five murders. As a part of his plea, all parties in his case have recommended a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release.

Likewise, a plea agreement was filed this morning for Jose Bonilla-Mejia (a/k/a Espia), 30, of Santa Maria, Calif. Bonilla-Mejia is offering to accept responsibility for his role in the murders of Carlos Serrano-Ramos, Wilson Villeda and Salvador Martinez-Diaz and serve life in prison without the possibility of release. His plea agreement will be considered by Chief Judge Sargus at a future hearing.

Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Todd A. Wickerham, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division, Rebecca Adducci, Detroit Field Office Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations, Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin and Interim Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan announced the pleas offered.

In February 2018, 23 individuals were charged in a second superseding indictment and alleged to be members and associates of MS-13 in Columbus.

The defendants are charged in a racketeering conspiracy, which includes five murders as well as attempted murder, extortion, money laundering, drug trafficking, assault, obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, weapons offenses and immigration-related violations.

The second superseding indictment alleges that the defendants committed a host of overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy, including: 1) the December 2006 murder of Jose Mendez, a suspected confidential informant, in Perry County; 2) the November 2008 murder of Ramon Ramos on Lockbourne Road in Columbus; 3) the mid-2015 murder of Carlos Serrano-Ramos, a suspected rival gang member, near Innis Road in Columbus; 4) the November 2015 murder of Wilson Villeda near Innis Road in Columbus; and 5) the December 2016 murder of Salvador Martinez-Diaz, a suspected rival gang member, on Melroy Avenue in Columbus.

The murders often involved defendants using weapons like machetes, knives and hammers to attack and beat their victims to death. In two of the charged murders, the victims were stabbed and slashed with bladed weapons before being buried in a nearby park.

Plea agreements were also filed today for two other defendants in this case, Jose Manuel Romero-Parada (a/k/a Russo), 24, of Columbus, and Jose Salvador Gonzalez-Campos (a/k/a Danger), 28, of Columbus. Both Romero-Parada and Gonzalez-Campos have agreed to plead guilty to racketeering conspiracy and accept responsibility for taking part in multiple homicides and other gang-related crimes, including drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering. The parties have recommended a sentence of 35 to 40 years in prison for these defendants. Chief Judge Sargus will consider those plea agreements at future hearings.

At future hearings, Chief Judge Sargus will consider the recommended terms of imprisonment and determine the ultimate sentences to impose.

U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI, ICE, Columbus Division of Police and Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, and the assistance of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), as well as Assistant United States Attorneys Brian J. Martinez and Jessica H. Kim, who are prosecuting the case.

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