County Man Receives 20-Year Sentence for Role in Gang-related Murder

County Man Receives 20-Year Sentence for Role in Gang-related Murder

Rival was lured to Gaithersburg, killed and buried in shallow grave

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Jose Israel Melendez-Rivera was sentenced to conspiracy to kidnap in connection with a 2016 murder in Gaithersburg.

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A Montgomery County man was sentenced Monday to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring to kidnap and murder a man he thought was in a rival gang, federal prosecutors announced.

Jose Israel Melendez-Rivera, 21, of Gaithersburg, was sentenced to conspiracy to kidnap in connection with the murder of Jordy Mejia.

Melendez-Rivera admitted to his involvement in an October 2016 plot to lure Mejia to Maryland and kill him so co-defendant Neris Moreno-Martinez, 22, could rise up the ranks within the MS-13 gang.

Moreno-Martinez wanted to achieve the rank of “chequeo,” which requires participating in a murder, but believed there weren’t enough secluded areas near his New Jersey home to dispose of a body, prosecutors said. He created a fake social media account and expressed romantic interest in Mejia, drawing him to Melendez-Rivera’s Gaithersburg residence.

Melendez-Rivera picked up Mejia from his apartment and brought him to a wooded area where Moreno-Martinez and co-defendant Reynaldo Alexis Granados-Vasquez, 23, of Gaithersburg, waited, prosecutors said.

When they arrived, Melendez-Rivera and Moreno-Martinez drowned Mejia in a small stream, prosecutors said. The three men carried the body to a shallow grave took turns stabbing the corpse with machetes.

Melendez-Rivera illegally entered the United States in 2014 from El Salvador, prosecutors said.

Moreno-Martinez is scheduled to be sentenced June 25 and Granados-Vasquez, who pleaded guilty in the kidnapping case, is set to be sentenced next month.

Charlie Wright can be reached at charlie.wright@bethesdamagazine.com

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