▶ Watch Video: The history of MS-13, from El Salvador to the U.S.

A leader of MS-13 has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted last year of multiple charges, including murder and conspiracy to commit murder, the Department of Justice announced Friday. MS-13, or La Mara Salvatrucha, is one of the largest gangs in the world and has been referred to by former Attorney General Bill Barr as “a death cult.”

Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, 41, also known as Reaper, was accused along with his co-defendant Junior Noe Alvarado-Requeno of controlling and operating Sailors Locos Salvatruchos Westside, one of the gang’s “cliques,” between 2015 and 2018. According to the Justice Department, the Maryland-based clique was involved in “a host of significant criminal activity including murder, extortion, drug trafficking, money laundering, and witness tampering.”  

During the 2021 trial, prosecutors presented evidence showing that the group extorted local businesses in Maryland by charging them “rent” for operating in the gang’s so-called “territory.” Evidence also showed that the clique was responsible for committing violent acts against both rival gangs and its own members for “breaking gang rules” and for trafficking illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine. The group would also share proceeds from the gang’s illegal activities to MS-13 leadership in El Salvador in ways designed to “avoid law enforcement scrutiny,” the Justice Department said Friday.

Prosecutors also argued that in 2017, Corea-Diaz and Alvarado-Requeno helped kidnap and murder a high school student because of a “dispute” the student had with a MS-13 member over marijuana. A group of MS-13 members, who were organized by Corea-Diaz and Alvarado-Requeno, abducted the student on his front lawn, cut his hand off and killed him. Corea-Diaz and Alvarado-Requeno then “helped to hide and protect the killers from law enforcement,” according to the Justice Department.

“The brutality of Corea Diaz is almost unfathomable,” U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron said Friday in a statement. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to remove these violent gang members to keep our communities safe from the violence perpetrated by MS-13.” 

Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, center, the alleged East Coast leader of MS-13, is lead by Drug Enforcement Administration officers, Wednesday, April 18, 2018 in Baltimore. DEA agents had brought Diaz to New York to face murder conspiracy and drug-trafficking charges.


Corea Diaz and Alvarado-Requeno were convicted by a federal jury on November 23, 2021 following a four-week trial for murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, and multiple drug offenses, according to the DOJ.

“Any time we can get a notorious gang member off. the streets, it is a victory for both law enforcement and law-abiding citizens,” special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Baltimore James R. Mancuso said Friday in a statement. “In this case, the criminal is particularly violent, and now he will face the consequences of his crimes.”   

Alvarado-Requeno, who also faces a mandatory life sentence, is scheduled to be sentenced April 25.