WASHINGTON - A 12-person federal jury in Charlotte, N.C., today voted unanimously to impose the death penalty against Alejandro Enrique Ramirez Umana, aka "Wizard," 25. Umana was convicted by the same jury on April 19, 2010, for the murders of Ruben Garcia Salinas and his brother, Manuel Garcia Salinas, on Dec. 8, 2007, in Guilford County, N.C. The jury also found that Umana was responsible for other murders: on July 27, 2005, in Los Angeles, the defendant killed Jose Herrera and Gustavo Porras; and on Sept. 28, 2005, in Los Angeles, the defendant participated and aided and abetted the killing of Andy Abarca. That sentence will be formally imposed by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Conrad Jr., at a later date.
The conviction and sentence were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina Anne M. Tompkins; Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina, Owen D. Harris; and Rodney Monroe, Chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
On April 19, 2010, the jury found Umana guilty of conspiracy to participate in racketeering; two counts of murder in aid of the racketeering enterprise known as MS-13; two counts of murder resulting from the use of a gun in a violent crime; possession of a firearm by an illegal alien; one count of extortion; and two criminal counts associated with witness tampering or intimidation. The jury reached its guilty verdict after a week-long trial in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, which began on April 12, 2010.
"Today, a jury of North Carolina citizens imposed the most severe punishment available under the law against a defendant who has inflicted violence and pain on numerous communities," said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. "In courtrooms from North Carolina to Texas and Maryland to Tennessee, the Criminal Division’s Gang Unit and our partner U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are targeting the most dangerous gang members and taking these violent offenders off our streets."
"This outcome, a sentence of death, is appropriate because our citizens, represented by this jury, have spoken to their community, particularly to young people who would engage in unlawful gang-related activity," said U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins. "This investigation and prosecution has had a substantial impact on disrupting gang activity in Charlotte. The actions of this defendant have had a devastating effect on the family of his victims and upon our community. We are grateful to those involved in bringing the case to this conclusion, and believe justice has been done."
"Gangs have no place in our communities," said Owen D. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI. "The jury’s finding today sends a message to those gang members who think they can avoid responsibility for their deeds. We will not stop going after them. The people and agencies that took part in this investigation and prosecution prove perseverance and commitment pay off."
"The decision today shows how willing this community is to punish gang members for wreaking havoc in our city. My Department and our law enforcement partners won’t stop until we round them all up," said Rodney Monroe, Chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. "This should also send a clear message to any gang member who thinks he can escape justice–we’re not going to stop, and we’re going to always seek the toughest penalties."
According to testimony presented during the trial, Umana, a former resident of Greensboro, N.C., was a member of a Charlotte-based cell of the La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13. The gang is composed primarily of immigrants, or descendants of immigrants, from El Salvador, with members operating throughout North Carolina, and elsewhere, inside and outside of the United States.
Witnesses testified at trial that Umana was a veteran member of the MS-13 who had illegally traveled from El Salvador, to Los Angeles, New York, and eventually, to Greensboro. Testimony established that in the fall of 2007 he was asked by MS-13 members in prison in San Salvador, El Salvador, to assist in re-organizing the Charlotte MS-13 members so that they could better control the drug trade, as well as extort and attack rival gang members in North Carolina.
Additional testimony revealed that on Dec. 8, 2007, while in a restaurant in Greensboro, Umana used a gun to shoot Ruben Garcia Salinas fatally in the chest and Manuel Garcia Salinas in the head after they "disrespected" his gang signs by calling them "fake." Umana fired three more shots as restaurant patrons scurried for cover, with one witness running to protect her infant child. One other individual was injured by the gunfire.
According to evidence introduced during the trial, Umana later escaped to Charlotte with the assistance of other MS-13 members, where he was arrested on Dec.12, 2007, in possession of a loaded Ruger, later determined to be the murder weapon.
The jury found that, based on the evidence presented at trial and during the penalty phase, Umana shot and killed Ruben Garcia Salinas, a mason, and his brother, Manuel Garcia Salinas, a bricklayer, in aid of the racketeering enterprise known as MS-13. According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Umana attempted during his term of pre-trial incarceration to kill witnesses and MS-13 members who had become informants. During the first day of jury selection, during a pat down at the jail prior to removing the defendant to the federal courthouse in Charlotte, U.S. Marshals recovered a knife, which Umana had concealed by attaching it to his penis.
Umana was also found by the jury at the sentencing phase to have been responsible for three other murders in Los Angeles. One of these, a double murder, occurred in July 2005 on Fairfax Avenue. The third murder, and injury of two others, occurred at Lemon Grove Park in September 2005.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, and Trial Attorney Sam Nazzaro from the Criminal Division’s Gang Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Don Gast, Adam Morris and Kevin Zolot, all of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, were also members of the government’s trial team.
Evidence presented at trial also showed that the long-term investigation of MS-13 activity in North Carolina was initiated by the FBI’s N.C. "Safe Streets" Gang Task Force. Specifically, a witness came forward through the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s "Gang of One" program and explained how the killings were part of the violent operation of a single MS-13 cell operating out of the Charlotte, N.C., area.
The investigation of the wide-sweeping enterprise led to the successful federal prosecution of 26 MS-13 members. In addition to Umana, six defendants were convicted at trial in January 2010, and 18 other co-defendants have pleaded guilty to the racketeering charges related to MS-13 activities in North Carolina. One defendant remains in custody in El Salvador.
The Task Force is composed of the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department; and the Gastonia, N.C., Police Department. The FBI’s MS-13 National Gang Task Force played a significant role in coordinating the international aspects of the overall investigation, and additional critical assistance was provided by the Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Center. Additional law enforcement investigative support was provided by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, as well as the Greensboro Police Department and the Durham Police Department. Substantial assistance has been afforded, especially during the trial, by the U.S. Marshals Service for the Western District of North Carolina.
For further information about FBI’s "Safe Streets Task Force" program, visit www.fbi.gov . For further information about the "Gang of One" program of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, contact Fran Cook at 704.432.4264.