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MS-13 gang leader who directed two Maryland murders sentenced to 45 years in federal prison

An MS-13 gang leader who pleaded guilty earlier this year to directing two murders in Maryland was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Jorge Guerra-Castillo, also known as “Pelon,” 40, admitted he had ordered and in some cases assisted with planning attacks including the murder of 21-year-old Jennifer B. Rivera-Lopez in Crownsville in September 2017.

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Federal prosecutors said Guerra-Castillo exhorted MS-13 members to find and kill more rivals, to sell more drugs, and recruit more members, and also accused him of raping and kidnapping a 14-year-old girl - at a time when he was 33.

“Guerra-Castillo will now serve practically a life sentence for his crimes,” U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron said in a statement.

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Lopez was driven in June 2017 to a remote spot on or near the grounds of Camp Barrett, a youth camp on the outskirts of Annapolis, where she was beaten to death and buried.

Prosecutors said Guerra-Castillo also arranged for members to kill a rival who was lured to a wooded area in Frederick, and to kidnap and kill someone who had stopped making extortion payments to the gang. He agreed to resume payments and was let go.

In a sentencing memorandum, defense attorneys for Guerra-Castillo noted that he did not physically take part in any of the attacks —- he was living in Pensacola, Florida, and acting as a go-between for members of the Fulton clique in Maryland, and the clique’s actual leadership in El Salvador, who saw a “crisis of undisciplined East Coast cliques with young members who acted in reckless ways,” the defense attorneys said.

They said Guerra-Castillo fled to Florida to try to create a buffer between himself and the Maryland members, without having to leave the gang altogether.

“He believed that doing so would allow him to keep his family safe, while not participating in the more brutal, day-to-day realities of gang life,” they said.

He at one point, in 2013, had been deported to Guatemala, and found his village taken over by violent drug traffickers and returned to the U.S., working for a construction company. He’s been a “model inmate,” they said.

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