WASHINGTON -- The reputed leader of a violent Honduran gang was using an alias, but the tattoos on his body gave him away.
Further checking revealed the man arrested in Texas on Feb. 10 was Ever Anibal Rivera Paz, known as ''El Culiche" -- The Tapeworm. Rivera Paz had escaped Jan. 23 from a Honduran prison where he was being held on charges of masterminding an armed attack on a bus that killed 28 people, including six children.
The bus had been filled with Christmas shoppers and workers heading home when it was attacked Dec. 23 in San Pedro Sula, about 125 miles north of the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. The attackers left behind a note saying they were part of a previously unknown revolutionary group opposed to the death penalty. Executions were stopped in Honduras in the 1950s.
Officials from the Homeland Security Department and the Honduran government said Wednesday that Rivera Paz was the leader of the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang in Honduras.
Rivera Paz, 26, and fellow gang leader Alvaro ''El Snoopy" Acosta, 27, who escaped with Rivera Paz, are ''dangerous Mara members, capable of committing any kind of coldblooded crime," Security Minister Oscar Alvarez of Honduras said. A $10,000 reward had been offered for their capture.
Rivera Paz, who uses the alias Franklin Jairo Rivera-Hernandez, was arrested by the Texas Highway Patrol about 100 miles north of the US-Mexican border after authorities suspected the car he was in was smuggling undocumented immigrants. He gave a false name, but his tattoos suggested he was an MS-13 gang member.
US Border Patrol agents stationed in Honduras had alerted authorities in the United States that Rivera Paz might be trying to enter the country, Border Patrol spokesman Salvador Zamora said.
''At booking when his information was entered into a computer, his name did give off red flags as far as an extensive criminal history," said John Guinn, spokesman for the McAllen, Texas, sector of Customs and Border Protection. ''He had tattoos on his body, pretty extensive tattoos similar to those found on members of" MS-13.
The Honduran government said that Rivera Paz's first US arrest was in San Francisco on Nov. 30, 1993, while he was a juvenile, and that he had been arrested several times since on US charges including drug trafficking, car theft, robbery, and assault. Rivera Paz remains in federal custody.
The Central American gang has members in the United States, and US officials are concerned that they might sneak Al Qaeda terrorists into the country, although they have no evidence of that.