Roberto "Bad Boy" Acosta, the MS-13 gang informant
who for years gave federal agents details about San Francisco's branch of the gang, faces sentencing in federal court next week for lying to his handlers
about how many people he'd murdered in his native Honduras.
Yesterday, we outlined the U.S. attorney's reasons
for pushing for a maximum five-year prison sentence, stated in court documents filed this week. Acosta argues in his own court filing that he should be let out of jail now, having already served eight months in prison. Acosta charges that without him prosecutors wouldn't have a case against MS-13 at all: He was the "primary source" of information that resulted in the 2008 takedown of the MS-13 gang in San Francisco, the indictments of more than 40 gang members, and the recent convictions
of six of seven members at trial.
"Many guns were removed from the streets of San Francisco, murders were solved and avoided because of the information that Mr. Acosta provided for [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and the government," according to the court document submitted by defense attorney Elena Condes.
Condes didn't return a message from SF Weekly seeking comment Wednesday.
As reported in our April cover story
, one gangster and many other members' defense attorneys alleged Acosta was less an informant and more a gang leader who encouraged the San Francisco clique to be more violent, threatening to report them to the big homeys in Central America if they weren't. One former gang member told us Acosta entrapped him into joining the gang after Acosta, his former cellmate in prison, told him that he already knew too much about the gang. The gang member claimed that Acosta inked several younger gang members with MS-13 tattoos.
Acosta signed on as a snitch with ICE in mid-2005, which, as was revealed in former gang members' testimony at trial, is an automatic death sentence within the gang. Condes asks Judge Charles Breyer for the hearing to be closed to the public, given Acosta's "life is under threat because of his work with the government and the matters discussed at his sentencing may potentially make this situation worse."
Acosta argues that, in 2008 debriefing sessions with agents, he had revealed his involvement in the murders of some bus drivers in Honduras. But it wasn't until February of this year, on the eve of the impending trial, that he told the agents he'd killed five people and directly ordered the murders of three others in that country.
"While [ICE] Agent [Christopher] Merendino testified in Mr. Acosta's trial that he wouldn't have used Mr. Acosta if he had known his entire criminal history at the beginning, the fact remains that at every juncture when new information was revealed about Mr. Acosta's past, he was still used as an informant and considered a potential witness in the larger MS-13 gang trial."
The court documents outline Acosta's history with the gang: He had become a member at age 14 -- when the MS-13 gang in the industrial town of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, was "more of [a] club or group of friends." But the gang grew more violent in the late 1990's when rival 18th Street members from Los Angeles were deported to the city.
Acosta rose to the post of the gang's treasurer, but was suspected to have "mishandled the funds of [the] gang." As a result, he was green-lighted by fellow MS-13 members in late 2004 to be killed. "He then found himself in a position of being ordered to kill his pregnant wife and her brother, or be killed himself."
According to the court document, Acosta fled his town and started plotting to leave Honduras, but "before he could make his way out, the gang killed his father and his friend. While he was hiding at his mother's house, the gang found him and killed his teenage brother and sister in front of him."
Federal prosecutors have argued Acosta cynically signed up as an informant in order to get immigration benefits and get his extended family relocated to the United States. And Acosta argues the government got "overwhelming assistance" in their MS-13 investigation in return.
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