In a crackdown on Santa Maria’s MS-13 gang, the county’s Criminal Grand Jury on Friday indicted 17 individuals on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, according to a statement released by the District Attorney’s Office.
Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 for short, originated in Los Angeles’s Salvadorian neighborhoods in the 1980s. It became the focus of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) task force in 2004, according to that agency’s website. Just four months ago, 15 alleged MS-13 gang members or associates were arrested in “Operation Matador,” a federal and local investigation into recent homicides in the City of Santa Maria, reported the Lompoc Record. Of those, 13 were flagged for deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), reported the same paper.
Two separate indictments accuse men and women from ages 18-32 of 50 felonies committed between January 2013 and March 2016. According to Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen, 15 of the defendants were named in Operation Matador. All fifteen are currently in custody, she said.
The first indictment charges eight men — Luis German Mejila Orellana, Juan Carlos Lozano Membreno, Jose Ricardo Saravia Lainez, Jose Balmore Saravia Lainez, Marcos Manuel Sanchez Torres, Juan Carlos Urbina Serrano, Jose Narcisco Escobar Hernandez, and Tranquilo Robles Morales — with the murders of four victims identified as John Does #1-4.
Eleven individuals are charged with the first-degree murder of a victim identified as “J.M.L.M.” These defendants are accused of sending pictures over Facebook, providing information regarding a work schedule, conducting surveillance of J.M.L.M., being armed with a gun, and waiting at J.M.L.M.’s home, according to the indictment.
Donaciano Morales-Suarez (Alexis Morales), Augustin Jamie Montano-Barajas, Javier Murillo-Sanchez, Aaron Hernandez-Sanchez, Brayan Mejila Molina, and an individual identified as J.S.M. were the murder victims named in the indictment.
Special allegations — among them multiple murder, murder by lying in wait, torture, and street terrorism — were filed against the same 17 defendants. Arraignments were continued to July 22 in Santa Maria Superior Court Judge Patricia Kelly’s courtroom.