Admitted gang member indicted in fatal 'initiation' shooting, prosecutor says

An admitted MS-13 gang member, who previously pleaded guilty to plotting the killing of witnesses, now has been indicted on charges of fatally shooting a man as an initiation into the gang six years ago.

Jose "Conejo" Romero-Aguirre, 31, of North Plainfield, faces charges of murder and first-degree conspiracy to commit murder in the killing of 22-year-old Andres Chach of Plainfield on Jan. 9, 2011, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park said.

Authorities said that at about 2 a.m., on the night of the shooting, Plainfield police responded to reports of shots being fired on the 300 block of West Front Street and found Chach on the ground, outside the restaurant, with gunshot wounds.

Video of persons of interest in fatal shooting released

A 20-year-old city man was killed on a city street in a broad daylight in on a Saturday afternoon two years ago. Chach was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The prosecutor's office Homicide Task Force and Plainfield police, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark, the FBI, and Homeland Security Investigations, identified Romero-Aguirre as a suspect.

Investigators also discovered Romero-Aguirre shot Chach as part as an initiation into the gang, Park said. Romero-Aguirre was formally charged in January 2017. He is being held on $1.5 million bail.

The Somerset County man had previously pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Newark to allegations that he relayed instructions from jailed gang members who ordered the killing of government witnesses.

Romero-Aguirre admitted in federal court that he was a member of the Plainfield Locos Salvatrucha (PLS) clique of MS-13 from at least August 2011. MS-13 or La Mara Salvatrucha, is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador. Branches, or "cliques," of MS-13 that emerged in the United States in the mid-1990s operate throughout the country, including Plainfield, authorities say.

They say members are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the gang. Romero-Aguirre pleaded guilty to a single count of of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering in return for a reduced prison sentence of 66 months, according to court records. He must now appear in state Superior Court in Elizabeth on a charge of murder, a first-degree crime that, under state law, carries a maximum penalty of 30 years to life in prison upon conviction.