Crime

Judge orders accused gang members to stay in custody

Suspected members of MS-13 arrive at the federal courthouse in Charlotte for a bond hearing Tuesday.
Suspected members of MS-13 arrive at the federal courthouse in Charlotte for a bond hearing Tuesday. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

More than a dozen suspected gang members arrested last week in a sweeping roundup appeared in federal court on Tuesday. As expected, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler ordered that all 16 remain jailed.

The defendants, reputed members of the MS-13 gang, are charged with crimes ranging from racketeering and drugs to robbery and attempted murder. A federal indictment accuses 37 suspected MS-13 members of operating a criminal enterprise in and around Charlotte since at least 2009.

Three of the defendants face murder charges in connection with killings that took place in Charlotte in 2013 and 2014. If convicted, Miguel “Most Wanted” Zelaya, 19, and Christian “Pitbull” Pena, 19, both of Charlotte, along with Luis “Big Boy” Ordonez, 36, of Concord, face the death penalty. They were among 16 defendants already in state custody at the time of the federal roundup. Five remain at large.

The arrests mark the second federal crackdown on Charlotte gangs in the last month. On April 22, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged 12 suspected members of the United Blood Nation with a series of racketeering crimes, including the October murders of Doug and Debbie London.

Prosecutors say the Charlotte business couple was killed in their Lake Wylie home to keep them from testifying against three UBN members who tried to rob their mattress store last May.

Gordon: 704-358-5095

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