Former MS-13 gang leader pleads guilty

Jan. 10, 2011 at 5:57 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A former leader of the La Mara Salvatrucha gang pleaded guilty in a federal court in San Francisco Monday to racketeering charges, the Justice Department said.

Besides the racketeering charges, Ivan Cerna pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering and the use or possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a violent crime.

Cerna admitted that since the late 1990s he was a member of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and participated in killing rival gang members or others who defied MS-13, court documents indicated. As the gang's leader, he pushed gang members to defend their turf by attacking rival gang members, and directed others to arm themselves with guns to advance MS-13 activities.

The guilty plea is the latest in a series of pleas by members of MS-13 to racketeering charges arising from a years-long investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, which targeted MS-13 gang members in the San Francisco Bay area, the Justice Department said.

Sentencing for Cerna is scheduled for March 29.

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