News and Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

FRIDAY - August 13, 2010

MS-13 GANG MEMBER FOUND GUILTY OF ROBBERY AND FIREARMS CHARGES

RALEIGH - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced that in federal court on August 10, 2010, a jury found DANIEL EDUARDO PINEDA-ZELAYA, an illegal alien residing in Wallace, North Carolina, guilty of conspiring to commit Hobbs Act Robbery, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951; Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951; use of a firearm in a crime of violence, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c); and illegal entry, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1325(a). The three-day trial was presided over by United States District Judge James C. Dever III.

A Federal Grand Jury returned a Superseding Criminal Indictment on February 4, 2010.

According to evidence presented at trial, on November 23, 2008, PINEDA-ZELAYA, also known as Daniel Edgardo Rodriguez, along with co-defendants Ever Jose Contreras, Humberto Diaz, and Jose Leonel Matute, entered the Your Convenience Store #755 in Burgaw, North Carolina. While the fourth co-defendant, Axel Contreras, waited in the car performing look-out, Ever Contreras and Diaz went to the back of the store where they encountered a patron of the store. Diaz removed a .22 caliber revolver from his pocket and pointed it at the customer demanding his wallet. Ever Contreras also held a knife on the customer. Diaz fired one round from the gun in the direction of the customer’s head. While this was occurring in the rear of the store, PINEDA-ZELAYA and Matute were at the front of the store demanding the clerk remove all the money from the register. After taking money from the register, the defendants fled the store, hopping into the car and speeding away.

For each of the two robbery convictions, PINEDA-ZELAYA faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment followed by up to five years’ supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. For the weapons charge, he faces up to a life-term of imprisonment consecutive to any other sentence followed by up to five years’ supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. For the illegal entry charge, he faces up to six months’ imprisonment.

All other defendants have pled guilty and are scheduled for sentencing in the upcoming months.

Investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Wilmington Office, the Pender County Sheriff’s Office and the Wallace Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Ethan Ontjes and Toby Lathan represented the government.

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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