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.
A reported attempted stabbing in Quincy Park, near Arlington Central Library, didn’t actually happen, according to Arlington County Police.
The 19-year-old man who reported the crime has admitted that he made it up and has been charged with filing a false police report, said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
Police conducted a “significant investigation” into the crime because the purported victim claimed the suspect who tried to stab him said it was part of a gang initiation.
“Because it had gang affiliation, it was turned over to the Gang Unit,” Savage said. While re-interviewing the man and canvassing the area, detectives noted inconsistencies in the story.
“Things just started to not line up, they weren’t consistent with the original story,” said Savage. “He eventually admitted that the story was not true and he was looking for attention from his dad.”
According to Savage, the false police report charge was noted in today’s daily crime report to let the public know that the gang attack did not happen.
“We don’t encourage people to walk through parks at night, but we also want people to feel safe in their community,” she said.
FILING A FALSE POLICE REPORT, 160211049, 1000 block of N. Quincy Street. At approximately 8:40 p.m. on February 11, officers responded to an attempted malicious wounding in the 1000 block of N. Quincy Street. After significant investigation by patrol officers and members of the Gang Unit, it was determined that the incident did not occur. Julian Leiter, 19, of Arlington VA was charged with filing a false police report.
Update on 2/17/16 — Police say the attack did not happen and was made up by the purported victim. The man, 19, has been charged with filing a false police report.
Police are investigating a possible gang-related attempted stabbing in Quincy Park last night.
Police say a male victim in his late teens was cutting through the park — near Arlington Central Library and Washington-Lee High School — just after 8:30 p.m., when he was approached by an unknown male suspect, also in his teens.
The suspect had a knife and told the victim that he was about to stab him as part of a gang initiation, according to Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. The victim, however, used self defense to foil the suspect’s apparent gang rite of passage.
The victim grabbed the suspect’s wrist as he tried to stab the victim, Savage said. The victim then struck the suspect in the side of the face, possibly injuring him. At that point, three men in hoodies started running toward the victim, who ran across the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Quincy Street, at which point the suspects fled, according to Savage.
Police are encouraging anyone with information about the crime, or any potential gang-related activity in Arlington, to call ACPD’s gang unit at 703-228-GANG (4264). Gang activity may be reported anonymously.
The crime report item on the attempted stabbing, including the suspect descriptions, is below.
ATTEMPTED MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 160211049, 1000 block of N. Quincy Street. At approximately 8:40 p.m. on February 11, an unknown male subject approached a male victim and attempted to stab him. The victim was able to use self-defense in fighting off the suspect and then fled. The suspect was accompanied by three additional male subjects. The first suspect that brandished a knife is described as a white male in his teens, approximately 5’10” tall with a slim build. The three accompanying suspects are described as males wearing grey-hoodie style jackets.
Wardian Wins Endurance Races — Prolific ultra-marathoner and Arlington resident Michael Wardian won the North Face Endurance Challenge D.C. 50 mile race on Saturday, with a time of 6:45:36. Wardian then woke up on Sunday and placed second in the 10K endurance challenge and won the 5K endurance challenge. [North Face]
Arlingtonian Wins Post Hunt — Arlington resident Sean Memon, 35, won the sixth annual Post Hunt over the weekend. Whereas teams of “hunters” usually compete in the life-sized puzzle game, Memon, an attorney, “was the first individual to win a hunt, either in Washington or in South Florida, where the event originated.” [Washington Post]
Anti-Gang Soccer Tourney in Arlington — The Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force will hold its 5th annual regional soccer tournament at Washington-Lee high school on June 22. The tournament is open to 100 at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 16. [Arlington County]
How to Get a Job in Healthcare — A panel presentation at Arlington Central Library on Wednesday will discuss “opportunities, needs and challenges in the health and medical career fields with a special focus on Northern Virginia.” The event is targeted to job seekers. “While we like to think that ALL Library events are memorable, this one probably could change a few lives, judging from the job markets,” said library spokesman Peter Golkin. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by J.D. Moore
The Gangs of Arlington — As of 2011 there were 10 active street gangs in Arlington. According to a speaker at a panel discussion held earlier this week, the gangs often try to recruit youths who have recently immigrated to the country. Arlington, however, has an extensive gang prevention program that limits the influence of gangs within the county. [Washington Examiner]
National Drug Take-Back Day — The Arlington County Police Department will be participating in National Drug Take-Back Day next weekend. From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, police will be collecting “expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs” — no questions asked — in an effort to prevent possible abuse and theft. Collection stations will be set up at fire stations 1, 8 and 9. [Arlington County Police]
Earth Day Twitter Chat Today — The Arlington County Department of Environmental Services is hosting a live Twitter chat on the topic of “green gardening” from noon to 1:00 p.m. today. “Join us and get answers to all of your questions related to landscaping and lawn care, native plants, and water conservation,” the county said in an email. One participant who submits a question will be randomly selected to receive a free rain barrel. [Facebook, Twitter]
An event next week will remind residents that Arlington is not without gang activity and gang-related violence.
On Tuesday, April 17, Leadership Arlington will be holding a panel discussion entitled “Arlington County Gangs: Exploring the Shadows of Our Urban Mayberry.” Part of the organization’s spring speaker series, the event will focus on “the threats that gang activity present to the Arlington community,” “contributing factors to youth participation in gangs” and “initiatives in place to address gang-related violence.”
The speakers include Robert “Tito” Vilchez of the Arlington County Task Force, a member of the Arlington County Police Gang Unit, and Meredith McKeen of Northern Virginia Family Services.
Gang activity might not be visible to many residents, but it is to many of Arlington’s youth. One in six Arlington Public Schools students know at least one person who is involved in gang activity, according to the event invitation.
The panel discussion will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the WETA building (2775 S. Quincy Street). Tickets are $40 for the general public and $30 for Leadership Arlington members. Lunch is included in the price of admission.
Illegal Gambling Bust — This morning the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force will announce that it has made multiple arrests and taken down a gang-related illegal gambling operation after a months-long investigation. Arlington County was one of the police agencies that aided the task force by assisting with the investigation and executing warrants, according to a spokesperson.
Overview of Arlington Prosecutor’s Race — In race for Commonwealth’s Attorney in Arlington, Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos has far out-raised defense attorney David Deane. But Deane is hoping his stance against the death penalty will give him an edge against Stamos in the upcoming Democratic primary. [Washington Post]
An Outsider’s View of Seven Corners — To anyone who has driven far enough west on Wilson Boulevard, Arlington Boulevard or Route 7, an anecdote in this article, written by a recent Arlington transplant, will ring true. [The New Atlantis]
Notorious Salvadorian street gang MS-13 is active in Northern Virginia, which is easy to forget in the low crime environs of Arlington County. But for anyone who has walked past the old DHL warehouse between Eads and Fern Streets in Pentagon City recently, the gang’s presence has been on dispay.
This graffiti — with the words “La Mara Salvatrucha” and the number 13 — was scrawled on the side of the brick warehouse, near a heavily-traveled path that Metro commuters take to get to the eastern end of Pentagon City.
A police report was just taken and building management is now working to clean up the graffiti.
It had been there for at least a week.