Gang member sentenced to life

A member of the New Jersey branch of the international street gang “La Mara Salvatrucha,” or “MS-13,” was sentenced to life in prison this week for his role in the brutal murder of an associate of MS-13 in May 2011.

Cruz Flores, a/k/a “Bruja,” 30, of Bound Brook, New Jersey, was previously convicted of Count 18 and Count 19 of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering and murder in aid of racketeering.

He was convicted following a 16-week trial before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler, who imposed the sentence in Newark federal court.

According to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, documents filed in this case and the evidence presented at trial:

MS-13 is a national and transnational gang with branches or “cliques” operating throughout the United States, including in Plainfield.

Flores was a member of the “Plainfield Locos Salvatruchas” (PLS) clique of MS-13 that was founded by Santos Reyes-Villatoro, a/k/a “Mousey,” 43, of Bound Brook, and operated in Union, Somerset, and Middlesex Counties.

On May 8, 2011, Flores murdered a victim who was caught socializing with 18th Street gang members. After the gang’s leadership “green-lit” the murder, Flores and another MS-13 member cut his throat, beat him with a bat and stabbed him in the back 17 times.

Flores was originally charged in a 26-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in September 2013. As of today, 13 of the 14 individuals charged in that indictment have been convicted and sentenced. One defendant remains a fugitive.

Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), under Newark Field Office Director John Tsoukaris; and Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola, with the investigation.

Fishman also thanked the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Grace H. Park, for long, close collaboration on the case.

He also thanked the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson, and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey, for their roles. He also acknowledged the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Virginia and the District of Maryland, as well as the Plainfield Police Department, Union County Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office, Elizabeth Police Department, North Plainfield Police Department, Union County Department of Corrections, Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Department and the U.S. Marshal’s Service for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys James M. Donnelly and J. Jamari Buxton of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and by Kevin L. Rosenberg, former Trial Attorney in the Organized Crime and Gang Section of the Department of Justice.

Defense counsel: David Ruhnke Esq. and Linwood Jones Esq.

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