San Francisco MS-13 Informant Found Guilty of Lying
|The government won its case against its own informant.|
According to the complaint, Roberto Acosta had told his handlers that he'd only been the messenger within the MS-13 gang to kill people in his native Honduras in 2008. But earlier this year, on the eve of the current trial against the MS-13 clique in San Francisco, he told the agents he'd actually been involved in eight murders in Honduras. Instead of calling Acosta as a witness in the trial, the government indicted him for lying -- the same charge brought against America's domestic darling Martha Stewart.
It's unclear if the verdict will have any effect on the ongoing MS-13 trial against the seven men Acosta had snitched on, given that the defense doesn't intend to call him either, says attorney Martin Sabelli. Acosta, who will be sentenced on Oct. 5, faces a possible five years in prison.
We wrote about Acosta's exploits in our cover story "A Rat's Life." A MS-13 gang member and the defense attorneys for the seven members on trial also charge that Acosta was much more than a mere informant on the MS-13's 20th Street Clique that had carved out a small pocket for themselves in the Mission District. They say that Acosta had claimed to kill several people in Honduras, inspiring fear among the younger members. He also became a gang leader who pushed the gangsters to commit more violent crimes.
One former member told SF Weekly that Acosta also tattooed many gang members with MS-13 symbols using a homemade contraption made by a CD player and a guitar string -- a troubling job for someone who is being used to identify gang members for the government.
But Acosta's attorney, Elena Condes, argues that he had been honest with his federal handlers. Condes says that while the agents kept "hundreds of notes" about the content of the debriefings over the years in which they worked with Acosta, they had no written record of the conversation where they allege Acosta had lied about his criminal history.
"It was an ongoing series of debriefing and relaying of information, and the government asked the questions they wanted the answers to," Condes says. "In that last meeting, according to the government witnesses, the government said 'tell us everything.'"
Condes hopes Acosta will not be deported to Honduras in part because of the death threats he had gotten from MS-13 gangsters after he was accused of losing some of the gang's money. Acosta told the government that gangsters had killed his father, brother, and sister as they hunted him down.
In return for snitching on the gang, Acosta was given permission to stay in the United States, along with his wife and mother-in-law.