BY: Charles Fain Lehman
April 11, 2018 9:40 am

A Boston-based leader of the transnational drug gang MS-13 was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison on Monday.

Rafael Leoner Aguirre, who goes by the moniker "Tremendo," will also be subject to deportation to his native El Salvador upon release, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday. Leoner Aguirre was convicted of conspiracy to commit racketeering, commonly known as a RICO conspiracy.

Leoner Aguirre was a leader of Enfermos Criminales Salvatrucha, an MS-13 clique. He illegally immigrated to the United States in 2013, settling first in Michigan before moving to Boston to recruit for his gang.

Leoner Aguirre worked to bring in new members of his clique in part by posting recruitment videos to YouTube. These videos likely came to the attention of many native high schoolers—one witness at Leoner Aguirre's trial testified that he had seen such a video while in high school. MS-13 has a history of recruiting high schoolers to its cliques.

By March of 2014, Leoner Aguirre had begun actively organizing and leading his clique. He instructed those under him to attack and kill members of rival gangs, as well as engaging in robberies and other racketeering activities.

Leoner Aguirre was also convicted of two attempted murders, both in daylight on busy public streets in Chelsea, Mass., and one involving a machete, a commonly used tool in MS-13 executions. He is currently serving a four to five year prison sentence for the second attempted murder, which he will complete prior to beginning his nineteen year prison term.

Eight other members of Leoner Aguirre's clique have also plead guilty and will also face federal sentences. They will also be subject to deportation upon completion of their terms.

Leoner Aguirre and his co-conspirators are not unique in the federal system. According to a recent analysis from the Department of Homeland Security, 94 percent of confirmed non-citizens in the federal prison system are unlawfully present in the United States.