Federal jury finds pair guilty of gang ties

November 15, 2006|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,Sun reporter

A federal jury convicted two gang members, including a Baltimore man, of participating in a violent street organization responsible for more than six murders and multiple assaults in Southern Maryland.

Jurors had been deliberating on and off since Nov. 3 to decide the fates of Edgar Alberto Ayala, 29, of Suitland and Oscar Ramos Velasquez, 21, of Baltimore. Late yesterday afternoon, jurors announced a verdict, finding both men guilty of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law and conspiracy to commit assaults with a deadly weapon to keep their footholds in a gang known as MS-13.

In addition, Ayala was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering and Velasquez was convicted of two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

"These convictions are an important step in a coordinated effort by federal, state and local authorities to combat violent gangs in Maryland. The RICO statute is a powerful tool that allows us to prosecute gang members in federal court for the activities of the criminal organization they chose to join," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement last night.

According to testimony at the six-week trial, the defendants operated as MS-13 members - short for the largely Hispanic criminal gang of La Mara Salvatrucha - in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

Trial testimony showed that Velasquez and other MS-13 gang members also carried deadly weapons while they sexually assaulted two juvenile females in May 2003. Prosecutors presented evidence that they also assaulted rival gang members outside a nightclub in Langley Park in 2004.

U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow set sentencing for Feb. 23. Both men face up to life in prison on the most serious charge.

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

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