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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 18, 2020

MS-13 Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Role in Armed Robbery

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Maryland man pleaded guilty today to driving three men associated with MS-13 who had just committed an armed robbery away from the scene of the crime.

“MS-13 is a transnational gang of vicious thugs that primarily preys on people and businesses in our nation’s vibrant immigrant communities,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Members of those communities should feel confident, as demonstrated today in court, that members and associates of MS-13 that commit violent acts here will be held accountable.”

According to court documents, Willian Alexis Benavides Pena, 26, is a member of MS-13’s Pinos Locos Salvatruchos (“PLS”) clique. On the morning of Aug. 18, 2017, several PLS members and associates travelled from Maryland to Herndon at the direction of the clique’s then-leader in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Some of those individuals, wearing masks and brandishing firearms, proceeded to rob a store in the 1100 block of Elden Street of approximately $19,500. Those men then entered a neighboring restaurant and kept its patrons and staff on the floor for several minutes before fleeing through the rear exit. Benavides Pena, knowing that a robbery had been committed, drove three of the armed robbers away from the scene and back to Maryland.

“This guilty plea is an example of the FBI and Safe Streets Task Force's continued work and commitment to dismantling MS-13 and ending the gang's violence that affects our communities,” said James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division. “The violence perpetrated by MS-13 members and associates will not be tolerated, and we thank our law enforcement partners who work every day to bring violent criminals to justice.”

Benavides Pena pleaded guilty to acting as an accessory after the fact to a Hobbs Act robbery. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when sentenced on September 22. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

“This case, which started at the local level with detectives from Herndon Police Department and Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, exemplifies the tremendous investigative cooperation among local, state, and federal partners in combatting violent crime in our communities,” Maggie DeBoard, Chief of Herndon Police Department said. “Our community remains safer today due to the arrest and conviction of this dangerous individual.”

The case was investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), Operation Blue Heat. The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

This matter was investigated by the FBI, Washington Field Office’s Northern Virginia Safe Streets/HIDTA Task Force which is composed of FBI agents working in partnership with local, state and federal agencies within Northern Virginia.   The Herndon Police Department provided significant investigative assistance in this matter.   The Northern Virginia Safe Streets/HIDTA Task Force is charged with investigating, disrupting and dismantling the most egregious and violent gangs and drug trafficking enterprises operating in Northern Virginia to include MS-13.   Information regarding gang activity within Northern Virginia can be referred to the FBI by calling 202-278-2000 or tips.fbi.gov.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office; Maggie A. DeBoard, Town of Herndon Police Chief; and Marcus G. Jones, Montgomery County Chief of Police, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney John C. Blanchard is prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:20-cr-123.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Contact: 
Joshua Stueve Director of Public Affairs joshua.stueve@usdoj.gov
Updated June 18, 2020