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Santa Maria MS-13 trial verdict reached, five men guilty of majority of charges

SANTA MARIA, Calif. – A verdict was reached on Thursday in the months-long trial of five men who were charged for multiple murders and crimes linked to the violent MS-13 gang, with a Santa Maria jury finding the men guilty of a majority of the charges.

Each man was charged with at least 40 violent felony crimes.

The men – Juan Carlos Urbina Serrano, Marcos Manuel Sanchez Torres, Luis Mejia Orellana, Tranquilino Robles Morales, and Juan Carlos Lozano Membreno – are five of the 10 men being tried for 10 murders that took place in Santa Maria between 2013 and 2016.

Serrano was found guilty on all charges, Torres was found guilty on all but three charges, and Orellana was found guilty on all but two charges.

Morales was found not guilty on all but 10 charges – which included the charges of first degree murder of five people – and Membreno was found guilty on all but 11 charges, including the first and second degree murder of three people.

The charges included first degree murder and criminal street gang conspiracy, among others.

The men also faced various charge enhancements, including waiting to intentionally murder the victim, infliction of torture, and intentionally killing while being an active participant in a criminal street gang.

While the verdict was reached, the case will be continued in Santa Maria on Monday morning to decide on a few other items.

The men were arrested during the early morning hours of March 3, 2016 when a months-long investigation into the crimes ended in a massive sweep with over 150 law enforcement officers and federal agents executing multiple arrest warrants.

Officers and agents from Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Kern County, and in Columbus, Ohio arrested more than a dozen people and detained roughly 40 others in what was called "Operation Matador."

Two separate trials are being held for the group of 10 because court administrators said that one courtroom couldn't accommodate all of the participants.

The other five defendants will be tried in Santa Barbara court.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
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Jade Martinez-Pogue

Jade Martinez-Pogue is the Assignment Editor and web journalist at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Jade, click here

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