Maryland MS-13 Leader Charged with Illegal Firearms Trafficking in Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON – Wilber Vigil-Benitez, also known as “Solitario,” of El Salvador, was arrested today on an outstanding arrest warrant from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, announced Michael R. Sherwin, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; John J. Durham, Director, Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV); Robert E. Bornstein, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division; and Peter Newsham, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
On August 25, 2020, Vigil-Benitez, 25, of Oxon Hill, Maryland, was charged in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, in case number 20-cr-170, in a nine-count indictment with conspiring to engage in the illegal trafficking of firearms, engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license, and seven counts of possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year. If convicted of all counts, Vigil-Benitez could face up to 85 years in prison.
According to the indictment and additional court documents filed by the Government, Vigil-Benitez, who also goes by the gang name “Solitario,” is a leader of the Delicias Locos Salvatruchas Clique de La Mara Salvatrucha, commonly referred to as MS-13, a transnational criminal organization. From approximately September 2017 through July 2018, Vigil-Benitez led a firearms trafficking conspiracy where, according to the indictment, he obtained firearms from an MS-13 associate and then illegally sold them on the streets of Washington, D.C., for profit. Vigil-Benitez was prohibited from possessing firearms due to his prior Maryland felony conviction, a firearms offense. Vigil-Benitez traveled from Maryland into the District of Columbia to sell firearms illegally on at least eight occasions. In total, Vigil-Benitez sold at least ten firearms, including an assault rifle.
On October 9, 2020, the Honorable Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey held Vigil-Benitez without bond pending a detention hearing on October 14, 2020. An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, for the purpose of establishing probable cause, not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
“Today’s arrest of a member of a transnational criminal organization represents the successful coordination of multiple federal and local law enforcement partners.” said Acting United States Attorney Michael R. Sherwin. “Our office is committed to disrupting the financial lifeline of criminal organizations such as MS-13 and bringing to justice those individuals who would bring firearms into our jurisdiction and inject fear and violence into our communities.”
“This case is another example of the strong partnership between the FBI and our local, state and federal partners to identify, investigate and ultimately prosecute members and associates of MS-13," said Robert E. Bornstein, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division. "MS-13, known for their violence, is a transnational gang which primarily preys and takes advantage of fellow immigrants from Central America. The FBI will continue to work collaboratively with our partners to identify, disrupt, and dismantle MS-13 in our communities.”
“In order to effectively combat the MS-13, we must not only prosecute violent crimes committed by the organization, but also must target its sources of revenue, including illegal firearms trafficking,” stated JTFV Director John J. Durham. “Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the FBI and MPD during this investigation, numerous illegal firearms were seized and an MS-13 leader will face justice.”
This investigation was carried out in partnership with JTFV. In August 2019, Attorney General Barr created JTFV to carry out the recommendations of the MS-13 subcommittee formed under the Attorney General’s Transnational Organized Crime Task Force, which was the result of President Trump’s February 2017 Executive Order directing the Departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to dismantle transnational criminal organizations, such as MS-13, and restore safety for the American people. The principal purpose of JTFV is to coordinate and lead the efforts of the Justice Department and U.S. law enforcement agencies against MS-13 in order to dismantle the group.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Cross Border Task Force, which is composed of FBI agents from both the Washington Field Office and the Baltimore Field Office, with task force officers from the U.S. Park Police, Prince George’s County Police, Montgomery County Police, and MPD. The task force works in partnership with the ATF, DEA, USMS, the Department of Homeland Security, Enforcement Removal Operations, and other local, state and federal agencies. The task force is charged with investigating the most egregious violent gangs and street crews operating between the District of Columbia and Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, Maryland. Significant investigative assistance was provided in this case by the MPD’s, Narcotics and Special Investigative Division (NSID).
This case is being investigated by the FBI and MPD with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin L. Rosenberg of the Violent Crime and Narcotics Trafficking Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Patterson detailed to JTFV.