16 Suspected MS-13 Gang Members Indicted in Fresno on Drug Conspiracy, Assault Charges: DOJ

An image included in a criminal complaint filed in August 2018 shows three men identified by officials as Luis Reyes-Castillo, far left, Denis Barrera-Palma, to his right, and Francisco Lizano, far right.

An image included in a criminal complaint filed in August 2018 shows three men identified by officials as Luis Reyes-Castillo, far left, Denis Barrera-Palma, to his right, and Francisco Lizano, far right.

Sixteen suspected members of the transnational gang MS-13 have been indicted in Fresno on assault and drug trafficking charges, authorities announced Friday.

The indictment by a federal grand jury includes two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, two counts of being an alien in possession of a firearm and one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana, the Department of Justice said.

Fourteen of the defendants lived in Mendota, one resided in Los Angeles and the other in San Bernardino, according to the agency.

At the Fresno County Superior Court, 24-year-old Denis Barrera-Palma and 18-year-old Ever Membreno also faced charges of conspiracy to commit murder.

Accusations against the suspects included an assault of a boy near a Mendota elementary school in May.

A criminal complaint filed in August said the victim, who appeared to be a member of a rival gang because of his clothes,  was walking by the school when Barrera-Palama and Membreno got out of a car and started punching the victim, one of them striking him with a metal pipe.

The assailants only stopped when a school staffer walked toward the parking lot, according to the court filing.

The documents also contained an image with three men identified by officials as Barrera-Palma, Francisco Lizano, another defendant, and Luis Reyes-Castillo, a suspected member in custody on separate charges.

Lorenzo Amador, a 20-year-old Mendota man also indicted on Friday, was accused of stabbing a rival gang member in August.

Prosecutors said the defendants participated in violent activities to join, maintain or increase their position within MS-13. They also alleged that the members sold drugs to fund the group’s criminal activities, including sending money to members in El Salvador.

Most of the defendants were arrested during an Aug. 30 bust targeting MS-13 members operating in the Central Valley and Los Angeles, the DOJ said.