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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 22, 2020

MS-13 Gang Member Sentenced for Role in Armed Robbery

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – An illegal alien and admitted MS-13 gang member was sentenced today to 28 months in prison for serving as a getaway driver for three men associated with MS-13 who had just committed an armed robbery.

“This case is a prime example of our need for strong borders,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “After previously being deported, this admitted MS-13 gang member again illegally crossed our southern border to get back into the United States. Then, as we’ve seen so often, once back here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area he continued his criminal activity and participation in MS-13. My thanks to the dedicated anti-gang task force agents for their outstanding work on this important case.”

According to court documents, William Alexis Benavides Pena, 27, is in the United States illegally and 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 prosecution and sentencing demonstrates the combined efforts of local, state and federal agencies in disrupting and dismantling the MS13 threat in our communities," said Robert E. Bornstein, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division.

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 case was investigated by the FBI, Washington Field Office's Northern Virginia Safe Streets/HIDTA Task Force which is composed of FBI agents, along with Task Force Officers from local, state, and federal partners throughout Northern Virginia.  The task force is charged with identifying and investigating the most egregious and violent gangs in Northern Virginia, to include MS13.  Significant investigative assistance in this case was provided by the Herndon PD and Northern Virginia Gang Task Force.

This case is also part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Robert E. Bornstein, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division; and Maggie A. DeBoard, Town of Herndon Police Chief, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge  Liam O'Grady. Assistant U.S. Attorney John C. Blanchard prosecuted 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 September 24, 2020