Vladimir Ernesto Ortega Oliva joined the MS-13 gang, but after witnessing the extreme violence of gang life, decided to become more involved with his church and become an "inactive" gang member. MS-13 would allow members who became active in the church to become inactive, but still required them to pay "la renta" to support the gang's activities. Oliva paid this extortion fee for 7 or 8 years, but eventually stopped paying. MS-13 members beat him severely and threatened to kill him if he didn't begin paying again.
Oliva applied for asylum, arguing that his life would be threatened because of his membership in one of two particular social groups: (1) “Salvadorans who are former members of MS-13 and who left the gang, without its permission, for moral and religious reasons,” and (2) “Salvadorans who were recruited to be members of MS-13 as children and who left the gang as minors, without its permission, for moral and religious reasons.” The Board of Immigration Appeals determined that "Oliva’s fear of persecution was not on account of his becoming an inactive gang member, but because of 'his specific conduct of violating the [gang’s] rules'—namely refusing to pay rent."
On appeal, the Fourth Circuit held that "[t]his was an overly restrictive view of Oliva’s case. A close examination of the record illuminates the inextricable relationship between Oliva’s membership in his proposed social groups and his refusal to pay rent." The court also determined that extortion can qualify as persecution, even if the victim will only be physically harmed if he stops paying the extortion fee.
The full text of Oliva v. Lynch can be found here: http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/141780.P.pdf