UNION CITY, New Jersey — Two high-ranking members of the vicious gang MS-13 were charged with conspiring to kill a fellow gang member they believed was an informant.
Federal investigators say Juan Pablo “Humilde” Escalante-Melgar, 27, and Elmer “Locote” Cruz-Diaz, 28, both of Union City, NJ, had received approval from their superiors in El Salvador to carry out the hit against the man they believed was cooperating with law enforcement.
“MS-13’s rules strictly prohibit cooperating with law enforcement, and it is well understood within the gang that police informants will be punished by death,” the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark said in a statement.
Escalante-Melgar is the leader of the Pinos Locos Salvatrucha clique of the gang and Cruz-Diaz heads the Hudson Locotes Salvatrucha clique, prosecutors said.
Investigators zeroed in on the plot in early August when they heard the two men discussing with other MS-13 members on the phone the need to kill the intended victim as well as three other people. Within days, the gang had received approval from leaders in El Salvador to carry out the hits.
The two men assigned a gang member to tail the victim and take note of his movements to determine the best time and place to kill him.
But on Sept. 3, Esclante-Melgar and Cruz-Diaz were taken into custody on immigration charges. They were later hit with federal charges of conspiring to kill a person to prevent them from talking to police and have been held without bail.