Seven years ago, a skinny 19-year-old man stepped outside a house party in Sparks, Nv., to smoke a cigarette and went back inside firing a semiautomatic pistol, according to witnesses. He killed two young men playing cards and fled the state, reports the Wall Street Journal. Lt. Greta Woyciehowsky of the Sparks police department had some good leads. She knew the identity of the suspected killer: Luis Alejandro Menendez-Cordero, an MS-13 gang member known as Apo—short for Apocalypto. She knew Menendez-Cordero had inked new face tattoos since the killings, horns and the letters “M” and “S,” and was in California. Detectives also found a photo of his girlfriend on a phone.
What Lt. Woyciehowsky didn’t know was that the woman was an informant for an FBI gang task force targeting MS-13 in Los Angeles. Woyciehowsky says the informant and her government handlers would become major obstacles in a years- long quest to catch a killer for one of the nation’s most violent gangs. Last month, Menendez-Cordero was finally put on trial and convicted of the two murders. The case shows the conflicts that can arise from giving informants a key role in the government’s efforts to infiltrate gangs including MS-13—a group that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called “one of the gravest threats to American safety.” Such conflicts can damage prosecutions and investigations.