gavel.jpgA former leader of the San Francisco branch of the international MS-13 criminal gang pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to charges of racketeering, murder conspiracy and gun use.

Ivan Cerna, also known as “Tigre,” 34, entered the plea before U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco and will be sentenced by the judge on March 29.

The MS-13, or La Mara Salvatrucha, gang originated in Los Angeles and is made up of Salvadoran and other Central American immigrants and descendants of immigrants, according to a 2008 grand jury indictment filed against Cerna and 28 other alleged gang members.

The indictment accused the alleged members of drug dealing, robbery, extortion and violence, including murder to protect their turf.

MS-13 is now found in 20 U.S. states, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the indictment said. The gang’s name is believed to be a combination of words meaning gang, Salvadoran, and “fear us.”

The San Francisco branch, or clique, was known as “20th Street” and was centered at 20th and Mission streets, the indictment said.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Cerna admitted to leading the San Francisco clique between 2004 and 2006, and to agreeing with other members that the group would attempt to murder rival gang members and people who cooperated with law enforcement.

He pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy; conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering; and use or possession of a gun in furtherance of a violent crime.
He faces a possible maximum term of life in prison.

In addition to the 29 people originally charged, five more defendants were added in three revised indictments.

A number of them have pleaded guilty to various charges, and the remaining 13 defendants are due to go on trial in Alsup’s court on March 7.

Two of the other guilty pleas were made before Alsup on Friday.

Aristides Carcamo, also known as Indio, 32, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, murder conspiracy, possessing a gun for use in a violent crime, and conspiracy to rob a jewelry merchant in 2008.

He faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison and will be sentenced by Alsup on March 22.

Jose Quinteros, also known as Fantasma, 25, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon. He will be sentenced April 5 and faces a penalty of up to 23 years in prison.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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