First MS-13 Member Extradited from El Salvador to United States Convicted for Role in Attempted Murder of Two Individuals
One of the Seriously Wounded Victims Was Pregnant
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Edgar Benitez Hernandez, also known as “Shadow,” 25, of the District of San Miguel, El Salvador, pleaded guilty today to two counts of using and discharging a firearm during or in relation to attempted murder in aid of racketeering. Benitez Hernandez was extradited from El Salvador to the United States on Dec. 18, 2013, and had been indicted previously by an Eastern District of Virginia grand jury on June 13, 2010, on multiple racketeering charges, including attempted murder.
Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Michael L. Chapman, Loudoun County Sheriff; and Maggie DeBoard, Town of Herndon Chief of Police, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by United States District Judge Claude M. Hilton.
Acting U.S. Attorney Boente stated, “The apprehension, extradition, and now conviction of this extremely violent gang member is indicative of both the cooperation and commitment of U.S. and Salvadoran law enforcement and prosecutors to bring to justice those criminals who commit violent acts on U.S. soil, even when the perpetrators flee the United States to the perceived safety of the Central American hills.”
“This case is an example of the hard work and partnership between FBI agents and police detectives who serve on the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force,” said Assistant Director Parlave. “Together with prosecutors, their efforts are essential to investigating violent gang members who attempt to instill fear in our communities and bringing those individuals to justice, wherever they may be.”
“The arrest and extradition of Benitez Hernandez is testimony to the importance of integrating local, federal and international law enforcement partners. It demonstrates a unified, international commitment to justice and in apprehending our most violent criminal suspects,” said Mike Chapman, Sheriff of Loudoun County.
Chief of Police DeBoard stated, “The passage of time does not deter nor diminish the efforts of local and federal law enforcement partners to seek out and prosecute those responsible for committing violence in our communities. This case serves as an example of law enforcement’s dedication in ensuring those responsible for violent crimes are brought to justice. It also highlights the invaluable partnership between the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force and local and federal agencies in this region.”
Benitez Hernandez, who now stands convicted of two counts of using and discharging a firearm during or in relation to attempted murder in aid of racketeering, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum period of 35 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 23, 2014.
According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Benitez Hernandez, a soldier in the notoriously violent transnational street gang Mara Salvatrucha 13 (“MS-13”), attempted to murder two individuals on Sept. 13, 2008, in Loudoun County, Va. On that date, Benitez Hernandez concealed himself behind some shrubs and when the male and pregnant female victims were within range, he fired multiple shots while yelling “Mara Salvatrucha Cabrones.” Both of the victims were critically injured and likely would have died were it not for immediate surgical intervention. The unborn baby also survived the wounding. Benitez Hernandez committed the double shooting to increase his position within MS-13’s criminal enterprise.
On May 22, 2013, Benitez Hernandez was apprehended in El Salvador by an elite Salvadoran investigative unit known as the Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Task Force. This extradition marks the first time in recent history that a Salvadoran citizen has been extradited to the United States to be held accountable for gang-related crimes committed in the United States.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force, with assistance from the Town of Herndon Police Department. The United States law enforcement partners involved in the investigation and prosecution of Benitez Hernandez would like to thank the Salvadoran National Police for their outstanding assistance in bringing this fugitive to justice. Acting U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente also thanked the FBI’s Legal Attaché Office in El Salvador, the Government of El Salvador, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, each of which were critical in securing the custody and extradition of Benitez Hernandez. Assistant United States Attorneys Patricia Haynes and Zach Terwilliger are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.