Vigil for Parkland — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) was among those to speak at a candlelight vigil last night in Falls Church for the victims of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting. Beyer spoke in favor of stricter gun control measures. [Blue Virginia]
Police Investigate Sound of Gunshots — Arlington County Police investigated a report of shots fired near the intersection of Lee Highway and Glebe Road Friday night. No injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Fmr. Arlington Resident Convicted of Murder — “A jury found a man guilty of multiple counts related to an execution-style shooting that killed three people in a D.C. park in 1991. Benito Valdez, 47, formerly of Arlington, Virginia, was found guilty of first-degree murder while armed.” [WTOP]
Theater’s Pre-Oscar Deal — With the Academy Awards now less than two weeks away, the Regal cinema in Ballston is offering a special deal: a $35 pass to see all nine films nominated for Best Picture. [Patch]
Flyover This Morning — A military flyover is scheduled just after 11 a.m. this morning for a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
ARLnow’s Eighth Birthday — Today is the eighth anniversary of the founding of ARLnow.com. Here is our first post ever.
Sexual Harassment FOIA Folo — In a follow-up to our FOIA request seeking any records of sexual harassment or assault allegations against senior Arlington officials since 2000 — no such records were found — we asked about any such cases, against any county employee, that were handled by the County Attorney’s office over the past decade. The response from the county’s FOIA officer: “There are no records responsive to your request because no such cases exist.” The last publicly reported case was that against an Arlington police officer in 2007.
Vihstadt Launches Re-election Bid — Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt made it official last night: he is running for re-election. Vihstadt, who is running as an independent, has picked up at least one Democratic challenger so far. However, he again has the backing of a number of prominent Democrats, including fellow Board member Libby Garvey, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos and Treasurer Carla de la Pava. [InsideNova]
County Accepts Millions in Grant Funds — “The Arlington County Board today accepted $17.85 million in grant funding from three transportation entities that will be used for transit, bridge renovation and transportation capital projects in the County.” Among the projects is a new west entrance for the Ballston Metro station. [Arlington County]
County Board Accepts Immigration Donation — “The Arlington County Board today accepted a resident’s anonymous donation for a Citizenship Scholarship to help Arlingtonians pay the $725 federal application fee charged to those seeking to become U.S. citizens.” [Arlington County]
Man Convicted of 7-Eleven Robberies — A man arrested last year for a string of robberies has been convicted by a federal jury of three armed robberies and an armed carjacking. Among the crimes were two armed robberies of 7-Eleven stores in Arlington. [Alexandria News]
Arlington Lauded for Solar Program — The U.S. Department of Energy has named Arlington County a “SolSmart” community “for making it faster, easier and more affordable for Arlington homes and businesses to go solar.” [Twitter, Arlington County]
Flickr photo by John Sonderman
Prosecutors say all 12 were members of the notorious MS-13 street gang, which has a presence in Northern Virginia.
The U.S. Attorney’s office issued the following press release Monday afternoon.
Six members of the street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, were convicted today by a federal jury for their roles in three murders and one attempted murder in Northern Virginia, among other charges.
“These violent gang members brutally murdered three men and attempted to murder a fourth,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Extreme violence is the hallmark of MS-13, and these horrific crimes represent exactly what the gang stands for. This was a highly complicated, death penalty eligible case with 13 defendants and more than two dozen defense attorneys. To say I am proud of our trial team and investigative partners is an understatement. I want to thank them for their terrific work on this case and for bringing these criminals to justice.”
“The defendants terrorized our local communities with senseless, depraved acts of threats, intimidation and violence,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “They murdered in the name of MS-13, but as this jury’s verdict makes clear, no gang can protect them from facing justice for their crimes. This verdict sends a clear message that the FBI will hold violent gangs and murderers fully accountable for their actions. I would like to thank the agents, analysts and prosecutors for their tireless efforts to eradicate gang violence in our communities.”
A total of 13 defendants were charged in this case. Of those, six defendants went to trial and were convicted of all charges. Six defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial, and one defendant was severed from the case and will have a separate trial at a later date. Please see the table at the end of this press release for additional information on each defendant.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on Oct. 1, 2013, Jose Lopez Torres, Jaime Rosales Villegas and others drove to Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge to murder a fellow gang member. However, one of the gang members in the car had not only alerted police to the murder plot, he also made recorded phone calls and wore a body wire to a meeting where the gang members, including Pedro Anthony Romero Cruz, who participated from prison on a contraband cell phone, planned the murder. The gang members’ vehicle was under surveillance that night, the victim had been warned to not be at school, and the informant was wearing a body wire.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on Oct. 7, 2013, Torres, Omar DeJesus Castillo, Juan Carlos Marquez Ayala, Araely Santiago Villanueva, Jose Del Cid, and three others murdered fellow gang member Nelson Omar Quintanilla Trujillo. The gang believed Trujillo was a snitch, and so the gang members lured him to Holmes Run Park in Falls Church, and brutally killed him by stabbing him with knives and slashing him with a machete. When they were done they buried Trujillo in a shallow grave. Several gang members returned a short time later and, with the assistance of Alvin Gaitan Benitez, reburied the body of Trujillo.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on March 29, 2014, Castillo, Benitez, Christian Lemus Cerna, Manuel Ernesto Paiz Guevara, Villanueva, Del Cid, and one other murdered Gerson Adoni Martinez Aguilar, a gang recruit, for breaking gang rules. Like Trujillo, the gang members lured him to Holmes Run Park and killed him. They stabbed him repeatedly, cut off his head, and then buried him in a shallow grave.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on June 19, 2014, Jesus Alejandro Chavez, Del Cid, and Genaro Sen Garcia murdered Julio Urrutia. Several gang members including Chavez, who had been released from prison eight days earlier, were out looking for rival gang members when they approached a group of young men, flashed their gang signs, and challenged them about their gang affiliation. During the exchange Chavez pulled out a gun and shot Urrutia in the neck at point blank range.
Each defendant convicted at trial faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison when sentenced. Villegas and Cruz face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit murder charge, in addition to a consecutive minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Villegas also faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the attempted murder charge. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Memorial Day Closures — Arlington County government offices, courts, schools, and community centers will be closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Arlington’s public indoor pools will be open, trash and recycling will be collected and ART buses will operate on a holiday schedule. [Arlington County]
Flags In at Arlington National Cemetery — More than 1,000 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as the Old Guard, placed small American flags in front some 275,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. The annual ceremony, known as “Flags In,” has been taking place before Memorial Day for more than 60 years. [U.S. Army]
Arlington Man Convicted of Sexual Abuse — Arlington resident Gary Hankins, a 45-year-old former licensed clinical social worker, has been convicted of sexually abusing a 17-year-old patient. The boy’s parents first contacted authorities after they discovered sexually suggestive texts from Hankins on his phone. [NBC Washington]
Candidates Bash Board’s Reevesland Vote — The Democratic candidates for County Board are criticizing the County Board’s vote this week to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. At a debate lacking one candidate — School Board Chair James Lander, who had a School Board meeting — candidates took turns bashing the decision, calling it “shameful,” “bad business” and “beneath Arlington.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]
APS to Discuss Swanson, Williamsburg Plans — Next month Arlington Public Schools will hold public forums to discuss “interim options” for addressing capacity issues at Swanson and Williamsburg Middle Schools. “These interim solution options include the use of both on-site or off-site locations to house some portion of the school populations, the possibility of some interior redesign, the use of relocatables as part of the solution, and changes in scheduling,” APS said in a press release. [Arlington Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
The Arlington County detectives have solved and obtained a conviction in a decades-old rape case thanks to new DNA technology, according to a report by TV station WUSA9.
The crime happened in January 1992, when a 25-year-old grad student answered a knock at her door, in an Arlington apartment building. The man at the door, dressed as a maintenance worker, drew a gun and proceeded to rape her.
Veteran detectives Rosa Ortiz and Bob Icolari, who have been working to solve long-cold rape cases, resubmitted a small amount DNA evidence from the case to the state crime lab, which was able to find a match thanks to new technology. The suspect — Stevie Brinson, 55 — confessed and was sentenced to life in prison, WUSA reported.
WUSA9’s report (note: video automatically plays), after the jump.
Ex-Marine Convicted in Murder Case — Former Marine Jorge Torrez has been convicted of first degree murder in the killing of fellow Navy petty officer Amanda Jean Snell at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. The trial will now enter the sentencing phase, with federal prosecutors seeking the death penalty. In a separate case, Torrez was previously convicted of rape in Arlington County and sentenced to life in prison. [Washington Post]
Dems Now Regretting Special Election Schedule? — Arlington Democrats may now be regretting the timing of yesterday’s County Board special election. Because departed County Board member Chris Zimmerman pushed back his last day in office, the special election was held after the filing deadline for nominations in the general election. That leaves Alan Howze as the sole Democrat on the ticket, despite the large margin of his loss Tuesday. [InsideNoVa]
Wardian Wins North Pole Marathon — Prolific Arlington marathon runner Michael Wardian has won the 2014 North Pole Marathon. Wardian finished the marathon, held in sub-zero temperatures, with a time of 4:07:40. He “described it as the toughest race he’s ever run.” [Facebook]
Major Delays on Orange Line This AM — Orange Line riders faced significant delays this morning due to a signal problem outside Stadium-Armory. One rider told ARLnow.com via email that the line was “seriously f–ked,” with “delays and overflowing platforms.” [Twitter]
East Arlington Remembered — East Arlington, a long-standing African-American community that was razed to make way for construction of the Pentagon and its road network in the 1940s, were remembered in a program hosted by the Arlington Historical Society. [Falls Church News-Press, YouTube]
An Arlington County employee has pleaded guilty to taking more than $10,000 in bribes.
The employee — a tax assessor supervisor in the county’s Department of Motor Vehicles Select office — admitted to taking bribes in exchange for allowing an exporter to avoid paying state taxes on luxury vehicles, including a Lamborghini and Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes, according to federal prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office issued the following press release about the conviction.
Francisco Samayoa Hernandez (“Samayoa”), 33, of Silver Spring, Md., pleaded guilty today to receiving bribes in connection with his work as a tax assessor supervisor at the Arlington County, Va., Department of Motor Vehicles Select office.
Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.
Samayoa faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison when he is sentenced on June 9, 2014.
In a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Samayoa admitted to receiving approximately $11,480 in bribes from a vehicle exporter in exchange for providing vehicle titles and falsifying Department of Motor Vehicle paperwork that allowed the exporter to avoid paying state motor vehicle sales and use tax in connection with the registration and titling of various luxury automobiles. In exchange for the bribes, Samayoa enabled the exporter to avoid paying approximately $24,923 due to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the registration and titling of a Lamborghini and multiple Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes.
Samayoa was an Arlington County employee, and the Arlington County Commissioner of Revenue contracts with the DMV to provide vehicle-related services at its local office.
Samayoa also admitted to serving as a straw buyer for the exporter and purchasing three BMWs in his name. In connection with these transactions, Samayoa falsely certified to a dealership that he was not purchasing the vehicle for export, and the dealership relied on that certification in making the sale.
This case was investigated jointly by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Virginia DMV Law Enforcement Division Office of Enforcement and Compliance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul J. Nathanson is prosecuting the case.
Any person who believes they may have information regarding public corruption in the Northern Virginia area is encouraged to call the FBI’s Northern Virginia Public Corruption Hotline at 703-686-6225 or send an email to [email protected]
Ruth Antuanet Miller, 35, originally from Peru but now an Arlington resident, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud and Coercion. She admitted to trafficking at least five victims.
Miller admitted in a statement filed in federal court that from May 2011 through July 2013, she was the leader of a criminal enterprise that prostituted women at hotels and motels around Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and in Fairfax County.
Some of the women involved were undocumented immigrants. Miller coerced some of them into prostitution by claiming she had ties to immigration agencies in the United States, and she could have the women removed from the country if they refused to engage in prostitution. Other women were told they would be arrested by local law enforcement agencies if they did not perform sex acts for money. Miller also claimed to have affiliation with a street gang and implied the women would be harmed if they didn’t comply.
Miller reported keeping half of the money the victims earned from prostitution while the victims kept the other half. Co-conspirators assisted Miller with operations such as booking hotel rooms, transporting the victims, collecting money and advertising on the internet.
The Arlington County Police Department and the City of Falls Church Police Department assisted Homeland Security Investigations and the Fairfax County Police Department with the investigation.
Miller will be sentenced on March 28, 2014, and faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Man Sentenced for Harassing Arlington Woman — A 47-year-old I.T. worker from New England has been sentenced to 7 years in prison for stalking and harassing an Arlington mom and her 16-year-old daughter. Bruce Stimon was accused of emailing the woman’s friends and saying she had an STD; posting her name, photo and work phone number on prostitution sites, secretly recording a video of them having sex, posting it on porn sites, and sending it to her daughter’s Twitter friends; and repeatedly slashing her tires. [WJLA]
Arlington Hotel Tax Passes House — A bill that would restore Arlington’s authority to levy a 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge has narrowly passed the Virginia House of Delegates. The bill earlier passed the state Senate, but the House bill contains a three year sunset provision that wasn’t in the Senate version, meaning the House and the Senate will need to hash out a combined bill in order for it to reach the governor’s desk. [Richmond Sunlight]
Navy Sets USS Arlington Commissioning Date — The new USS Arlington will be commissioned in Norfolk on April 6, the Navy has announced. [Sun Gazette]
Tejada Says No to Anti-Streetcar Groups — Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada has declined requests from groups critical of the Columbia Pike streetcar seeking to make presentations at an upcoming streetcar community forum. Tejada said the purpose of the forum, on March 27, is to “update the community” on the streetcar project, not to debate the Board’s decision to build the streetcar. [Sun Gazette]