Roberto Acosta, MS-13 Informant in San Francisco Gang Case, to Stand Trial for Lying

Categories: Crime
The government will soon see its rat in court.
It's not every day that the government charges their own criminal informant with lying. That's exactly what happened with Roberto Acosta, an MS-13 gang leader who infiltrated the gang which had claimed turf near 20th Street in the Mission District. Acosta will stand trial next month for lying about having participated in eight murders in his native Honduras, according to news reports.

In our April cover story "A Rat's Life," we wrote about Acosta and other informants gone wild in the MS-13 gang case unfolding in federal court against San Francisco's 20th Street Clique. Defense attorneys and one gang member told us that Acosta was less a mere informant than a leader who pushed younger members to commit more crimes and marked them with incriminating MS-13 tattoos.

In March, a federal grand jury indicted Acosta with making a false statement to a federal official -- the same charge held against Martha Stewart, which carries a maximum one-year prison sentence.

Yet a recently unsealed complaint against Acosta details his alleged lying.

In a 2008 debriefing, Acosta told the agents he joined MS-13 in his native Honduras in 1996, according to an affidavit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent John Moore. Acosta said he'd risen through the ranks to become a leader, but eventually fled from Honduras because he had lost some of the gang's money. As a result, the gang put a hit on him, he said, adding that the gang had killed his father, brother, and sister while trying to hunt him down.

In another 2008 debriefing, agents asked Acosta if he had been involved in any murders while in Honduras. Acosta claimed that some bus drivers wounded or killed some of the MS-13 gangsters who extorted them. Acosta said he reported the attack to a gang leader in prison, who told him to deliver the message to retaliate. He did, and as many as three drivers were killed, he told the agents. Still, Acosta maintained he was only the messenger, not the murderer.

But then Acosta's story changed on Feb. 2, 2011, according to the affidavit. He admitted that he had been a MS-13 leader between 2003 and 2004 in Honduras and he was in charge of the gang's narcotics trafficking operation.

"He was ordered to carry out eight murders by gang leaders, and did so," Moore's statement reads. "He personally participated in approximately five murders, and arranged for three additional murders."

Acosta's attorney, Elena Condes, did not respond to our request for comment. But she told the Wall Street Journal that Acosta denies lying to the agents.

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