An Everett man identified as a top leader of the MS-13 gang, the only gang identified by law enforcement as an international criminal organization, was secretly recorded urging members from Boston and across the country to send tribute money to gang leaders in El Salvador, according to federal prosecutors.
Edwin Manica Flores, 35, who has ties to both Everett and El Salvador, discussed what gang members allegedly call the “East Coast Program,’’ a conduit for cash to El Salvador that also mediates among feuding cliques and funnels orders from leaders in the Central American country, including orders to murder people, federal officials say.
Manica Flores at the time was in El Salvador and made a call on speakerphone to address MS-13 members who had gathered in a Richmond residence for the Dec. 13, 2015, meeting, which was secretly recorded by the FBI, according to an indictment filed in US District Court in Boston.
The secretly recorded conversation is now the underpinning of a RICO conspiracy prosecution of Manica Flores filed against him under the same federal law used to target the Mafia and other organized crime groups. The indictment was unsealed Thursday.
Prosecutors said Manica Flores, an alleged member of MS-13’s Everett Loco Salvatrucha clique who also goes by the nickname “Sugar,” is in El Salvador and authorities will seek his extradition to the United States to face charges.
“You will contribute something to El Salvador and be well recognized over there,’’ Manica Flores is quoted as saying, in an FBI affidavit. “In the future you will be able to come and pick up a piece.”
In his remarks, Manica Flores also warned the gang members to be careful when selecting new members. He appears to acknowledge that the FBI has been successful in recent years by prosecuting gang members in Massachusetts and across the country.
“You must be very careful about who you bring in . . . brother, be very careful,’’ he is quoted as saying in the secretly recorded conversation. “The FBI gives them a car, gives them money . . . they loosen their tongues, you know?”
Last year, the FBI and Boston and Chelsea police led an investigation into the MS-13 that resulted in charges against 56 people for allegedly running a vast criminal enterprise with the goal to “kill, rape, and control’’ illegal drug sales in the region’s immigrant community.
Manica Flores also urged the gang members not to wear the gang’s colors or clothing law enforcement has linked to gang membership, including Nike’s Cortez line of sneakers, according to the indictment filed in court. Wearing the clothing lets the “enemy” — his description for law enforcement — readily identify their connection to MS-13, which federal officials say heavily recruits among recent immigrants to the United States from El Salvador and other Central American countries. “Dressed like that, the enemy can see you, the police can arrest you, and boom, [deported] to El Salvador,’’ he said, adding that members in his clique based in Everett have already stopped wearing gang colors. “To live a great life there, one must [be] humble, you know, to avoid being detected.”