High-ranking MS-13 gang member gets 13 years for conspiracy

A high-ranking member of the MS-13 street gang was sentenced to serve 13 years in prison for his role in a racketeering conspiracy that included a murder plot.



42-year-old Joel Cortez, also known as "Pee Wee," was sentenced in federal court in Newark on Wednesday.



Cortez is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence in California. His sentence for the racketeering conspiracy will run concurrently with the time he's already serving.



Prosecutors say Cortez was tasked with consolidating MS-13's east coast gang cliques into a "national program" under a single leadership structure.



As part of this work, authorities say Cortez coordinated the distribution of Mexican cartel drugs and signed off on the murder of a rival gang leader in Hudson County that investigators were able to stop.



The Associated Press wire services helped contribute to this report.


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