From left to right: Ronald Mendez-Sosa, Francisco Ramirez-Pena, Brenda Argueta and Ervin Arrue-Figueroa.
From left to right: Ronald Mendez-Sosa, Francisco Ramirez-Pena, Brenda Argueta and Ervin Arrue-Figueroa.

Four people have admitted to participating in two grisly murders in Anne Arundel County as part of MS-13, the transnational gang that has targeted immigrant communities in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.

In plea agreements entered in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Ronald Mendez-Sosa, 21, of Edgewater, Brenda Argueta, 20, of Silver Spring, Ervin Arrue-Figueroa, 20, of Annapolis, and Francisco Ramirez-Pena, 24, of Annapolis, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise.

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All four admitted in their agreements they participated in the murder of Jennifer Rivera-Lopez, a 21-year-old Annapolis woman who was found buried in a secret grave in a Crownsville park in September 2017.

Mendez-Sosa also admitted to aiding in the murder of a 17-year-old who was found the following month in another clandestine grave in Annapolis.

Attorneys for the four either did not respond to calls for comment or were unavailable Sunday.

The plea agreements offer new details into the murders, as court documents state both were killed due to an ongoing rivalry with the 18th Street gang, another gang with roots in Central America that was founded in California like MS-13.

According to Ramirez-Sosa’s plea agreement, he and several other members targeted Jennifer B. Rivera-Lopez and killed her on June 24, 2017, “due to her association with the rival 18th Street gang.”

Argueta reached out to Rivera-Lopez on social media and arranged a date for the two to meet, according to court records. Police say it’s a common practice of the gang to lure potential victims to remote areas by pretending to arrange dates with romantic interests on social media.

The two arranged to meet on June 24, 2017, the plea agreements read, and “Argueta used a ruse to get [Rivera-Lopez] into the car.”

“Argueta then used another ruse to get the car to stop, at which point several other [MS-13] members forced [Rivera-Lopez] into another vehicle and took [Rivera-Lopez] to the site of the murder,” the agreement reads.

Once there, Arrue-Figueroa, Ramirez-Pena and other MS-13 members attacked Rivera-Lopez with machetes and knives, decapitating her, according to the plea agreement.

Mendez-Sosa’s stated he did not attack Rivera-Lopez, but aided in the murder by bringing other members to the murder site and later picking them up once Rivera-Lopez was dead and buried.

The newly filed agreements give light into Rivera-Lopez’s murder two years after Anne Arundel police arrested several people charged with her death.

Police initially said several people were killed in gang-related incidents, but later wrote in court documents that Rivera-Lopez and other young Hispanics in the Annapolis area had been killed by MS-13, which has roots in El Salvador.

In addition to Rivera-Lopez’s murder, Mendez-Sosa admitted to participating in the murder of Neri Giovani Bonilla-Palacios, a 17-year-old who was found dead Oct. 3, 2017, in a wooded area off Open View Lane in Annapolis.

Mendez-Sosa wrote in his plea agreement that he and other gang members suspected Bonilla-Palacios of pretending to be the member of a different branch of MS-13 “and/or assisting 18th Street members in avoiding MS-13 retribution.”

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On Aug. 5, 2017, members of the MS-13 branch Bonilla-Palacios was suspected to be pretending to be associated with met with other gang members in Quiet Waters Park and invited Bonilla-Palacios to join them.

“Once [Bonilla-Palacios] arrived in the park, SOSA and other MS-13 gang members attacked [Bonilla-Palacios] with a hammer and a machete,” the agreement reads.

The 17-year-old was found a month later, decapitated and with “at least 108 sharp and blunt force injury wounds.”

Argueta also admitted she helped extort “rent” fees from local business, collecting money on behalf of the gang from illegal brothels and “informal beer houses,” her agreement reads.

Ramirez-Pena and Arrue-Figueroa also admitted to selling marijuana on behalf of the gang.

The guilty pleas are the latest in an expansive racketeering case against more than two dozen suspected MS-13 members in the region.

Investigators say they have made significant inroads against the gang, as Anne Arundel police said in September 2018 that more than 70 members of the gang had been arrested in the county over the past three years.

However, officials warned as many as 200 members could be in the region.

In September, several suspected members were charged with the stabbing death of 21-year-old Daniel Alejandro Alvarado-Cuellar, who police said was stalked back to his Towson apartment before he was stabbed to death.

Authorities said the killing was also linked to the rivalry between the 18th Street gang and MS-13.

A few days later, a 26-year-old Severn man was sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to racketeering in connection with the gang. He wrote in his plea agreement that he was a “Program leader” for MS-13 within its Parkview Locos Salvatrucha, or “PLVS,” branch.

Mendez-Sosa wrote in his plea agreement that Bonilla-Palacios was suspected of pretending to belong to the PLVS branch.

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