Two suspected MS-13 gang members pleaded not guilty Thursday in downtown Los Angeles to federal racketeering charges alleging the killings of seven people, including the machete slaying of a gang rival who was dismembered and had his heart removed.
German “Arnol” Hernandez and Fernando “Chaos” Parada, who are both 20, entered their pleas before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alexander F. MacKinnon. A Jan. 28 trial date was set.
Hernandez and Parada are among nearly two dozen people named in a 12-count indictment unsealed last week in Los Angeles federal court.
The indictment accuses suspected gang leaders of authorizing and coordinating the killings, while also naming gang members who allegedly carried out the murders and attempted murders of gang rivals. Hernandez is the lead defendant in the indictment.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that one of the murders linked to the gang took place in March 2017, when MS-13 members targeted a rival gang member who they believe defaced MS-13 graffiti. After abducting, choking, and driving the victim — identified by the initials J.S. — to a remote location in the Angeles National Forest, six members fatally attacked him with a machete, the indictment alleges.
The victim was then allegedly dismembered before one gang member “carved out” his heart and threw the body parts into a canyon, according to federal prosecutors.
Formed in the mid-1980s in Los Angeles, MS-13 — or Mara Salvatrucha — has a presence in at least 10 states and several countries abroad. The epicenter of the organization, prosecutors allege, is in the San Fernando Valley, where Salvadoran MS-13 members joined with others to carry out the slayings detailed in the indictment.
Just three of the 22 named in the indictment are over the age of 24, prosecutors said, while 16 of the defendants are eligible for the federal death penalty should the Justice Department opt to seek it.
Nineteen of the defendants had entered the country illegally in the last four years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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