A deadly prison fight occurred at the U.S. Penitentiary in Beaumont, Texas, on January 31. On April 7, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Texas charged seven gang members from MS-13 with double murder in connection to the attack that caused a nationwide lockdown for almost a week.
According to the United States Department of Justice, Joint Task Force Vulcan Director John J. Durham, Homeland Security Investigations Houston Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Mark Dawson, FBI Houston SAC James Smith, and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas Brit Featherston announced the charges.
According to the charges, MS-13 members allegedly organized and executed an attack against rival gang members from the Mexican Mafia and Sureños, resulting in two attempted murders, two deaths, and a nationwide Federal Bureau of Prisons lockdown.
The attack apparently began at the hands of Juan Carlos Rivas-Moreiera, a 41-year-old from MS-13, when he stabbed Sureños member Guillermo Riojas twice in the chest. Riojas was stabbed in the heart and lungs. After the victim fell to the ground, other members of MS-13 then stabbed and kicked him. Riojas died from his injuries.
After the attack on Riojas, reports say the seven MS-13 members cornered another Sureños member, Andrew Pineda, beating and stabbing him to death. Pineda suffered over forty-five stab wounds.
Two other members of Sureños survived multiple stab wounds sustained during the attack, which lasted about 3 minutes.
La Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, is a transnational criminal organization. The gang consists mainly of individuals from El Salvador, though some members originate from countries including Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.
MS-13 began in Los Angeles, California. However, the criminal organization rapidly spread nationally and internationally to comprise over 10,000 members. The gang has a presence throughout the United States, including New York, California, and Texas.
The Sureños are associated with the Mexican Mafia, which controls numerous hispanic individuals within federal prison systems in California and Texas. Sureños pay tribute to the Mafia while incarcerated.
MS-13 had a symbiotic relationship with Sureños and Mexican Mafia until recently, when the Ranfla Nacional, MS-13’s leadership, began to seek more control over its members in American prisons. Part of this control includes orders to murder while imprisoned.
According to Durham, members of MS-13 are committed to their organization even while incarcerated, and continue to plan attacks on rivals.
“Disrupting dangerous plots that can arise from gangs like MS-13 in the federal prison system, as alleged in today’s indictment, is a matter of utmost importance for the FBI,” said SAC Smith in the DOJ release.
He noted the investigation was also significant to him personally, as he was formerly a supervisory special agent in the FBI Criminal Investigative Division’s MS-13 National Gang Task Force Unit.
“The FBI served as a force multiplier and the lead investigative agency for this case immediately following the murders. In support of this massive investigation, we completed over 100 interviews, conducted over 60 searches, reviewed hours of surveillance footage, and seized countless weapons and contraband. The FBI remains resolute in our commitment to continue working side by side with our law enforcement partners to defeat and deter gang violence anywhere it occurs,” Smith added.
The seven members of MS-13 charged in the prison attack murders are currently in federal custody.
Rivas-Moreiera is already serving a life sentence for his involvement with MS-13 and murder in aid of racketeering. Dimas Alfaro-Granado, 39 years old, and Raul Landaverde-Giron, 32, are serving a life sentence for the same convictions. Hector Ramires, 28, is already serving a 27-year sentence. The other three MS-13 members charged are Larry Navarete, 41, Jorge Parada, 42, and Sergio Sibrian, 29.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone is overseeing the case. If any of the seven MS-13 members are convicted of the charges, they will receive life in prison and eligibility for the death penalty.