A member of the MS-13 gang has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in a gang-related murder and the attempted murder of two rival gang members in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia, Special Agent in Charge Brock D. Nicholson of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations’ (ICE HSI) Atlanta Office and Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office made the announcement.
Remberto Argueta, aka Pitufo, 27, of Lilburn, Georgia was sentenced to life in prison in the Northern District of Georgia. Argueta was convicted of related charges on Nov. 22, 2013, following a three-week jury trial, of RICO conspiracy, violent crime in aid of racketeering and using a firearm to commit a crime of violence in connection with the murder of a suspected drug dealer and attempted murder of two rival gang members. Twenty-two additional defendants have been convicted of related charges as part of this case.
“Nearly two dozen MS-13 members have been convicted as a part of this investigation, wiping out the leaders and top members of an international street gang that spread violence and fear throughout the Atlanta area,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Sentences like the one handed down today help us to put MS-13 out of business in Atlanta and throughout the United States.”
“Argueta helped MS-13 live up to its reputation as a ruthless, violent gang that spread fear throughout the community,” said U.S. Attorney Yates. “He displayed a callous disregard for human life and has fittingly earned his place behind prison walls for the remainder of his life.”
“The world will be a safer place with this defendant behind bars for the rest of his life,” said Special Agent in Charge Nicholson. “HSI is strongly committed to working with our partners at the FBI and local law enforcement agencies to identify and arrest the dangerous transnational gang members victimizing our communities.”
“This sentencing of a hardened MS-13 gang member is one of a series of convictions and sentences of members of this gang known for their violence in the northern metro Atlanta area,” said Special Agent in Charge Johnson. “While these dangerous gang members have now been neutralized, the FBI will continue to dedicate substantial investigative resources in this area to ensure that the void now created will not be filled by additional gang members or other gangs.”
According to evidence presented at trial, MS-13 is an international gang that has operated in the Atlanta area since at least 2005. The gang members claimed Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties as their home territory and used violence to defend their territory. They attacked rival gang members and committed armed robberies in furtherance of the MS-13 gang.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Argueta and other members of MS-13 planned to rob a suspected drug dealer at a hotel in April 2007. During the attempted robbery, Argueta and his fellow MS-13 members killed the suspected drug dealer, who was also armed, in a shootout. Hotel surveillance video showed one of the MS-13 members stopping to pick up the victim’s gun, which he later showed off as a trophy.
Additional evidence showed that in October 2007, Argueta and several other MS-13 members were at an apartment complex in Gwinnett County when Argueta spotted suspected rival gang members. He approached them and asked them who they “claimed” – that is, what gang they belonged to – and two of the rival gang members responded that they were members of the 18th Street gang. Argueta replied, “You’re going to die,” pulled out a handgun and started chasing and shooting at the rival gang members. During the pursuit, he shot one rival in the back and one in the hip and arm. Argueta fired several rounds during the pursuit, some of which went into the apartments of nearby residents. An elderly woman testified that one of Argueta’s bullets hit the headrest of an armchair that she had been sitting in just a few minutes earlier.
This case was investigated by ICE HSI and the FBI with assistance from the DeKalb County Police Department, Gwinnett County Police Department, and Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph K. Wheatley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul R. Jones of the Northern District of Georgia.