By David Jones
NEWARK N.J. (Reuters) - Two men described by prosecutors as New Jersey members of MS-13, a street gang with turf stretching from Salvadorean prisons to U.S. coastal cities, were due to appear in a New Jersey federal court on Friday on charges of racketeering and murder conspiracy.
Marvin Garcia-Cruz, 31, is the leader of a local MS-13 clique in New Jersey's Hudson County, and Rudy Gutierrez, 22, is a member of a neighboring MS-13 clique, prosecutors said.
They are among 12 men who were charged in an indictment on Tuesday by the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, including a Californian man accused of being the U.S. national leader for the gang.
Some of the other indicted men conducted gang business with smuggled cellphones in prisons in Virginia and in El Salvador, the indictment said.
Garcia-Cruz and Gutierrez are accused of playing a role in an unsuccessful conspiracy to murder a rival gang member in November, as are seven other men due to appear in court at a later date. Gutierrez is also charged with racketeering conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Also charged in the same indictment was Jose Juan Rodriguez-Juarez, who was said by prosecutors to be the U.S. national leader of MS-13, an abbreviation of Mara Salvatrucha.
Rodriguez-Juarez, 34, was working to bring together MS-13's local organizations in the United States under his central leadership and to increase the amount of money the gang makes by violently extorting local businesses.
He is in custody in California and is due in court at a later date, prosecutors said, and faces a sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said in a statement that the accused men were using "this new formalized structure to open new drug distribution channels facilitated by cartel alliances and bloodshed."
Pierre Eloi, an attorney for Garcia-Cruz, declined to comment ahead of the court appearance. Defense lawyers for the other accused men could not immediately be reached.
The MS-13 gang was formed in the 1980s by Salvadorean refugees who had settled in Los Angeles, according to the indictment. The gang then steadily expanded into Latino enclaves elsewhere in California and the U.S. East Coast, as well as El Salvador and other Central American countries after some members were deported.
(This story has been fixed to correct that the men were accused of role in failed murder conspiracy, not murder, in paragraph 5 and the headline)
(Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bernard Orr and Eric Walsh)