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MS-13 member sentenced to life in prison for RICO conspiracy and brutal murder of two teenagers

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  On February 16 a member of the violent MS-13 gang was sentenced in federal court in Boston for RICO conspiracy and for his participation in the murders of two teenagers in Massachusetts – one in 2016 in East Boston and the other in 2018 in Lynn – in each instance playing a critical role in repeatedly stabbing a teenager to death. Henri Salvador Gutierrez, 23, a Salvadoran national, was sentenced to life in prison.

  In June 2021, Gutierrez pleaded guilty to RICO (from the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) – conspiracy on behalf of MS-13. As part of his activities in furtherance of MS-13, Gutierrez played a critical role in two horrific murders in which teenagers were repeatedly stabbed to death in public parks in Massachusetts. Both victims were murdered with extreme atrocity and cruelty in violation of Massachusetts law.

  MS-13, or La Mara Salvatrucha, is a transnational street gang operating in Massachusetts and numerous other states, as well as countries, such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. MS-13 gang members often commit acts of extreme violence against suspected rivals, those suspected of cooperating with law enforcement and others whom the gang views as a threat. The gang is also known for recruiting young members at local high schools, who are then groomed to commit violence in furtherance of the gang’s mission. In recent years, dozens of MS-13 members have been convicted of RICO conspiracy and other serious felonies in the District of Massachusetts.

  MS-13 is organized into “cliques”: branches operating in local territories. Gutierrez was a member of the “Sykos Locos Salvatrucha” (Sykos) and, previously, the “Trece Locos Salvatrucha” (TLS) cliques of MS-13. Achieving promotion in MS-13 generally requires the commission of a significant act of violence, often including murder. The evidence in this case showed that Gutierrez was a “homeboy,” or full member of the MS-13 gang.

  On December 24, 2016, in furtherance of MS-13’s racketeering activities, Gutierrez participated in the murder of a teenage boy in East Boston. The evidence showed that Gutierrez lured the victim to a public soccer stadium based on Gutierrez’s belief that the victim might have been associated with a rival gang. Gutierrez personally stabbed the victim numerous times and left the victim’s body at the bottom of a stairwell. An autopsy revealed the victim had at least a dozen sharp force wounds consistent with a stabbing, with significant injuries to the neck, chest and back. His throat appeared to have been slashed, and he had multiple incised wounds to the neck and multiple stab wounds to the chest.

  In 2017 – while the December 2016 murder remained unsolved and unrelated to that investigation – immigration authorities arrested Gutierrez as part of ongoing removal proceedings. Gutierrez had entered the United States unlawfully in 2014 and was facing deportation. Authorities sought to remove Gutierrez from the United States and pointed to evidence of his association with MS-13 as part of the reasons to oppose Gutierrez’s petition for asylum and other relief. Gutierrez submitted an affidavit and testified under oath at his removal proceedings. Through his statements, Gutierrez misled the immigration court, telling the court that he was not associated with MS-13, had not committed prior violence and was committed to living a peaceful life in the United States. Relying in part on Gutierrez’s false testimony, in an order dated June 22, 2018, a United States Immigration Judge ordered Gutierrez released and adjusted his status to that of a person admitted for lawful permanent residence in the United States.

  On July 30, 2018, barely a month after being released from immigration custody, Gutierrez committed his second murder, this time with five members of the Sykos clique of MS-13. The six assailants, four of who were secretly armed with knives, took a 17-year-old boy to a park in Lynn and pretended to be friendly with the unsuspecting victim. At the scene, the six men surrounded the victim and repeatedly stabbed and hacked him to death. After killing the victim, the gang members left his body in the wooded area of the public park, where it was discovered on August 2, 2018. An autopsy revealed that the victim suffered at least 32 distinct sharp force trauma wounds consistent with being stabbed repeatedly, along with multiple blunt force injuries. The victim also had small pieces of metal embedded in his head, consistent with parts of the large knives breaking with the force of the strikes to the victim’s skull.

  The evidence in this case, which included a recording of Gutierrez describing the murder in graphic detail and boasting about it, revealed that the gang members murdered the victim based on their mistaken belief that he might have been assisting law enforcement. In the recordings, Gutierrez seemingly took pleasure in recounting the horrific act and expressed laughter while saying the murder was like “chopping wood,” as he and fellow gang members “were stabbing the knife right through him, bringing it down like […] Bang, bang, bang, bang!”

  Following an investigation in November 2018, Gutierrez was indicted along with the five other MS-13 members who participated in the July 2018 murder in Lynn. The six defendants in this case included five participants in the 2018 murder as well as one longstanding member of the Sykos clique. In a related case, the government charged a juvenile co-conspirator who was the sixth person involved in the murder. All six defendants indicted in this case, along with the juvenile charged in the related case, have pleaded guilty.

  Gutierrez is the third defendant to be sentenced in the case. On February 14, Erick Lopez Flores was sentenced to 40 years in prison. On February 15, Jonathan Tercero Yanes, was sentenced to 33 years in prison. Djavier Duggins was scheduled to be sentenced for RICO conspiracy on February 17. Sentencing hearings for the two remaining codefendants, Eliseo Vaquerano Canas and Marlos Reyes, have not been scheduled.

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