COLUMBUS, Ohio – A local man pleaded guilty in federal court in Columbus this morning to participating in a racketeering conspiracy on behalf of the transnational criminal organization MS-13.
In his plea, Juan Flores-Castro (also known as Juan Pablo Guerra-Flores and “Duende”), 32, of Columbus, accepts responsibility for committing murder and trafficking cocaine and marijuana on behalf of MS-13.
Parties involved in Flores-Castro’s case have recommended a sentence of 35 to 40 years in prison.
The defendant is one of 23 members and associates of MS-13 in Columbus charged in a February 2018 second superseding indictment. He is the twentieth defendant to plead guilty.
The defendants are charged in a racketeering conspiracy, which includes five murders as well as attempted murder, extortion, money laundering, drug trafficking, assault, obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, weapons offenses and immigration-related violations.
Among other crimes, Flores-Castro is charged for his role in the December 2016 murder of Salvador Martinez-Diaz, a suspected rival 18th Street gang member. According to court documents, this homicide was carefully planned. Just after 3am on Dec. 4, 2016, MS-13 members waited outside the apartment of Martinez-Diaz and opened fire on him with pistols, shooting him multiple times and killing him. The members of the transnational gang then disposed of evidence of their crime. Flores-Castro admitted that he and other co-conspirators conducted surveillance of the victim, followed him home, and were in contact with the shooters in the moments leading up to the murder.
Flores-Castro pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering.
David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Chris Hoffman, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division; Rebecca Adducci, Detroit Field Office Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations; Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin; and Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan announced the guilty plea entered before U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr.
Deputy Criminal Chief Brian J. Martinez and Assistant United States Attorney Noah R. Litton are representing the United States in this case.