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Arlington Man Charged in ‘Violent Racketeering Conspiracy’

A federal grand jury indicted an Arlington man yesterday (March 15) on charges relating to alleged MS-13 gang involvement.

Luis Arnoldo Flores-Reyes, also known as Maloso or Lobo, 37, is alleged to have been engaged in “a racketeering conspiracy that included extortion, drug trafficking, murder and a conspiracy to commit murder” as a member of MS-13’s Sailors Clique.

He is charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by extortion.

Prosecutors say Flores-Reyes trafficked marijuana and cocaine Langley Park, Md., and extorted illegal business owners in Langley Park and Wheaton, Md. He is also accused of ordering the murders of rival gang members in Houston, Texas.

MS-13 is an international gang with ties to El Salvador and is one of America’s largest street gangs.

More from a U.S. Justice Department press release:

A federal grand jury returned an indictment yesterday charging an alleged MS-13 member residing in Arlington, Virginia with

The indictment was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan; Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning for the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge Andre Watson of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Assistant Director in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the FBI Washington Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); Chief Henry P. Stawinski III of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks; Chief Douglas Holland of the Hyattsville Police Department; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

Luis Arnoldo Flores-Reyes, aka Maloso and Lobo, 37, is charged in a four-count superseding indictment that alleges that from at least 2015 through January 2018, he was a member and associate of the Sailors Clique of MS-13 and that he engaged in a racketeering conspiracy that included extortion, drug trafficking, murder and a conspiracy to commit murder. The defendant is also charged with drug trafficking conspiracy and conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by extortion. Flores-Reyes is in custody.

According to the indictment, MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, Maryland. Eleven other individuals were previously charged in this case with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, drug trafficking conspiracy and conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by extortion.

For a period of time beginning at least in 2015 through in or about 2017, members of the Sailors Clique, including Flores-Reyes, are alleged to have extorted owners of illegal businesses in the Langley Park and Wheaton areas of Maryland, with the extortion proceeds being sent to El Salvador to benefit MS-13. In addition, between 2015 and 2018, members of the Sailors clique, including Flores-Reyes, are alleged to have trafficked narcotics, including marijuana and cocaine in Langley Park, Maryland, with the proceeds benefiting the gang.

More specifically, in January 2018, Flores-Reyes gave directions to members of MS-13 in Houston, Texas that they should purchase a gun and shoot rival gang members who were believed to have killed a member of MS-13. On or about Jan. 28, 2018, members of MS-13 in Houston, Texas shot at and attempted to kill suspected rival gang members while Flores-Reyes and other MS-13 members, including MS-13 members in El Salvador, monitored the shooting by phone.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

Trial Attorney Catherine K. Dick of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William D. Moomau and Daniel C. Gardner of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland are prosecuting this case.

Photo via U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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Morning Notes

Air Force Memorial (Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin)

Justice Dept. Investigating Arlington Jail — The Justice Department has launched an investigation into treatment of deaf inmates at the Arlington County Detention Center. That follows a lawsuit by a deaf inmate who said he was not given access to a sign language interpreter during a six-week stay at the jail. [Associated Press]

Deer Takes the Stage at Signature Theatre — A deer wandered onto the stage at Signature Theatre in Shirlington on Tuesday. The deer apparently entered through a loading dock while crews were working on the set for an upcoming production. [NBC Washington]

‘Most Wanted’ Deadbeats — The Arlington Sheriff’s Office is making a push to promote a program for tracking down “deadbeat parents” who are late on child support payments. Many of the addresses on file for deadbeat parents are no longer valid, so deputies have taken to finding the offenders on social media. [Connection Newspapers]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

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Arlington Resident, Fmr. CIA Officer Pleads Guilty to Covert Disclosure

A former CIA officer who lives in Arlington has pleaded guilty to revealing the name of a covert CIA officer to a journalist.

John Kiriakou, 48, agreed to a 30 month prison sentence for disclosing the covert officer’s name. The crime was detailed in a statement of facts entered in the case.

From a U.S. Department of Justice press release:

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, 48, of Arlington, Va., pleaded guilty today to disclosing to a journalist the name of a covert CIA officer and also admitted to disclosing information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.

Kiriakou pleaded guilty today to one count of intentionally disclosing information identifying a covert agent. As part of the plea agreement, the United States and Kiriakou agree that a sentence of 30 months in prison is the appropriate disposition of this case. Sentencing has been scheduled for Jan. 25, 2013.

“The government has a vital interest in protecting the identities of those involved in covert operations,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Leaks of highly sensitive, closely held and classified information compromise national security and can put individual lives in danger.”

“Disclosing classified information, including the names of CIA officers, to unauthorized individuals is a clear violation of the law,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “Today’s plea would not be possible without the hard work of the prosecutors and FBI Special Agents and analysts who brought this case to justice, and who will continue to pursue those who ignore their obligations to protect national security secrets.”

According to court records, the case is a result of an investigation triggered by a classified filing in January 2009 by defense counsel for high-value detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This filing contained classified information the defense had not been given through official government channels, including photographs of certain government employees and contractors. The investigation revealed that on multiple occasions one of the journalists to whom Kiriakou illegally disclosed classified information, in turn, disclosed that information to a defense team investigator. This information was reflected in the classified defense filing and enabled the defense team to take or obtain surveillance photographs of government personnel. The government has made no allegations of criminal activity by any members of the defense team for the detainees.

Kiriakou was a CIA intelligence officer between 1990 and 2004, serving at headquarters and in various classified overseas assignments. Upon joining the CIA in 1990 and on multiple occasions in following years, Kiriakou signed secrecy and non-disclosure agreements not to disclose classified information to unauthorized individuals. In a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Kiriakou admitted that he made illegal disclosures about two CIA employees and their involvement in classified operations to two journalists (referenced as “Journalist A” and “Journalist B” in court records) on multiple occasions between 2007 and 2009.

Kiriakou admitted that, through a series of emails with Journalist A, he disclosed the full name of a CIA officer (referred to as “Officer A” in court records) whose association with the CIA had been classified for more than two decades. In addition to identifying the officer for the journalist, Kiriakou also provided information that helped the journalist link the officer to a particular classified operation.

In addition, Kiriakou admitted that he disclosed to Journalists A and B the name and contact information of a CIA analyst, identified in court records as “Officer B,” along with his association with an operation to capture terrorism subject Abu Zubaydah in 2002. Kiriakou knew that the association of Officer B with the Abu Zubaydah operation was classified. Based in part on this information, Journalist B subsequently published a June 2008 front-page story in The New York Times disclosing Officer B’s alleged role in the Abu Zubaydah operation.

Without Kiriakou’s knowledge, Journalist A passed the information he obtained from Kiriakou to an investigator assisting in the defense of high-value detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Kiriakou also admitted that he lied to the CIA regarding the existence and use of a classified technique, referred to as a “magic box,” while seeking permission from the CIA’s Publications Review Board to include the classified technique in a book.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from the CIA and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Iris Lan of the Southern District of New York, Mark E. Schneider and Ryan Fayhee of the Northern District of Illinois, and W. Neil Hammerstrom Jr. of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

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Morning Notes

Fmr. CIA Officer Charged — Former CIA officer and current Arlington resident John Kiriakou, 47, was charged yesterday with repeatedly leaking classified information to journalists. Kiriakou is best known for his 2007 interview with ABC News in which he described the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaeda operative. [Washington Post]

Cigarette Tax Bill Dies in General Assembly — A bill proposed by Del. Patrick Hope (D) that would have raised Virginia’s cigarette tax from 30 cents to the national average of $1.45 has died a quick and unsurprising death in a House of Delegates subcommittee. [Sun Gazette]

Senator’s Arlington Condo for Sale — Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has put his swanky Arlington condo up for sale in advance of his reelection campaign. The condo, which is reportedly on the market for nearly $2 million, is located in the Radnor/Fort Myer Heights neighborhood and overlooks the Iwo Jima memorial. [US News & World Report]

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Meet Mikhail Semenko, The Ironic, Fun-Loving (Accused) Spy

Gawker has grabbed a bunch of Facebook photos of Mikhail Semenko, the Arlington travel agent who’s accused of being a secret agent for Russia.

As it turns out, Semenko is a fan of parties, ironic t-shirts and Bill Clinton masks. He has just over 400 Facebook friends, although that number is steadily decreasing as his former friends dissociate themselves from him.

The Wall Street Journal didn’t stop at Facebook. It accessed Semenko’s page on a Russian social networking website.

In 2008 a friend of Semenko said on the site, apparently as a joke, “Hi to our valiant spy deep behind the nasty Americans’ lines. Remember the teachings of Mao: destroy the filthy imperialist economy from within!!”

Photo via Gawker.

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Morning Notes: Spies Like Us

“Like a Hollywood movie” — That’s how many news reports describe the bust of an alleged Russian spy ring over the weekend. If the movie was ever produced, much of the action would be set in Arlington. Arlington is the place where three of the 11 suspects lived and were arrested. It is also the site of some intrigue on June 26, 2010. According to court documents, video surveillance cameras installed by the FBI captured one of the suspects, Mikhail Semenko, leaving an envelope containing $5,000 cash at a “drop site” in an unnamed Arlington park.

Residents Describe Arrested Neighbors as Reserved, Ordinary — Neighbors and colleagues of the three arrested Arlington residents say they never imagined that they were in the midst of alleged “secret agents.” Mikhail Semenko worked at Travel All Russia, a Russian travel agency in Lyon Park. He was fluent in four languages, drove a Mercedes S-500, and spent much of his time with his Russian-speaking girlfriend, according to a North Arlington neighbor.

Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills, meanwhile, had two young children who are now in protective custody, reports ABC 7. Zottoli and Mills each had a Russian accent, a neighbor said, but no one suspected they were part of a spy ring. They lived in the River House Apartments in Pentagon City after moving to the area from Seattle last year, according to court documents.

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BREAKING NEWS — Feds Arrest Three “Secret Agents” in Arlington

Three Arlington residents (see updated information here) have been arrested and charged with spying for Russia, part of a larger sweep of ten alleged “secret agents” across the eastern seaboard.

The Justice Department says eight of the ten defendants carried out “long-term, ‘deep-cover’ assignments in the United States on behalf of the Russian Federation.”

Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills and Mikhail Semenko were arrested at their homes in Arlington yesterday, according to the Department of Justice. They were scheduled to appear in federal court in Alexandria today.

All three of the Arlington defendants are charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Zottoli and Mills are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

In addition to the Arlington defendants, five people were arrested in the greater New York area and two people were arrested in Boston.

“This case is the result of a multi-year investigation conducted by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and the Counterespionage Section and the Office of Intelligence within the Justice Department’s National Security Division,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

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