A U.S. District judge sentenced a 23-year-old man to 35 years in federal prison and five years of supervised release in connection to a violent street gang that preyed on the Hispanic community in Annapolis over a two-year period.
Moises Alexis Reyes-Canales, also known as“Sicopita,” is the sixth and final member of MS-13 indicted in a string of crimes. He pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise as part of MS-13 gang activities, including murder and two attempted murders.
“Reyes-Canales is a violent gang member who killed and seriously injured multiple victims, and in the process brought horror and despair to the victims and their families as well as chaos and fear to communities in Annapolis,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner said in a statement. “This sentence of 35 years in federal prison should serve as a warning to those who are in MS-13 and are considering joining the gang that we will be relentless in prosecuting anyone who is involved in violence.”
Reyes-Canales admitted that he participated in the murder of a suspected rival gang member and conspired and attempted to murder two victims in Annapolis, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He admitted being a member of MS-13 since March 11, 2016 and participated as a member in a racketeering conspiracy that included assaults, murder, attempted murder, robbery, and drug trafficking. Reyes-Canales also sold marijuana to raise funds for the gang.
Drug proceeds were used to purchase more narcotics and weapons to send to MS-13 members and associates in other states and in El Salvador, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The murder of Jose Hernandez-Portillo, 22, of Annapolis in 2016 was one of three in the Annapolis area attributed to the gang.
With roots in that Latin American country, the gang is a national crime organization known to focus on communities where immigrants from Latin America and South America live. Annapolis has a thriving Hispanic/Latino community, with a large portion of immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The gang has a reputation for committing brutal acts of violence against rival gangs, like the 18th Street gang, and those who are perceived to disrespect their authority.
Reyes-Canales admitted that on March 11, 2016, he and other MS-13 members and associates agreed to murder a man police later identified as Hernandez-Portillo, whom the gang suspected of being a rival gang member. Reyes-Canales received authorization to commit the murder from MS-13 leadership prior to the stabbing and directed others during the attack at Quiet Waters Park.
Other MS-13 members buried Hernandez-Portillo in a shallow grave. Police didn’t find his body until Aug. 28, 2017.
Reyes-Canales was indicted along with Marlon Cruz-Flores, 25, and Manuel Martinez-Aguilar, 22, Fermin Gomez-Jimenez, 23, David Diaz-Alvarado, 20, and Juan Carlos Sandoval-Rodriguez, 23. Reyes Canales was the final gang member to go to trial, and all of the others have been convicted of various roles in the gang.
Hernandez-Portillo’s murder followed an attempted killing of a suspected rival working as an unlicensed taxi driver on Oct. 23, 2016. Cruz-Flores called the man to arrange a ride. When the driver and his passenger arrived at the meeting point along Annapolis Neck Road, Reyes-Canales and Cruz-Flores ambushed him, shooting a passenger with handguns.
Other gang members stabbed and slashed the men with machetes before fleeing at the sound of sirens.
The taxi driver and passenger survived after responders took them to shock trauma but were permanently scarred, court records state. One man required more than 200 staples; the other lost parts of fingers from the machete strikes.
A short time later, police arrested Gomez-Jimenez nearby with blood on his hands and clothes. A surveillance camera in the area captured Gomez-Jimenez assaulting the taxi driver and an attempt to run him over with his own car.
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.