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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, June 22, 2018

MS-13 Gang Members Charged in Connection with Murders of Juveniles

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal indictment was unsealed today charging 11 members and associates of MS-13 in connection with the 2016 murders of two juveniles in Fairfax County.

According to allegations in the indictment, in August 2016, Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Erick Palacios Ruiz, Ronald Herrera Contreras, and Josue Vigil Mejia conspired together and with others to lure a 17 year-old male, who they suspected was a member of a rival gang, to a park in Fairfax County in order to attack and kill him. After killing him and to conceal evidence linking them to the juvenile’s disappearance and murder, these four defendants and their co-conspirators buried the juvenile’s remains.

The indictment further alleges that in September 2016, Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Erick Palacios Ruiz, Ronald Herrera Contreras, Henry Zelaya Martinez, Oscar Contreras Aguilar, Yonathan Melgar Martinez, Pablo Miguel Barrera Velasco, Anderson Villatoro, Francisco Avila Avalos, and Fredys Baires Abarca conspired together and with others to lure a 14 year-old male to the same park in Fairfax County where he was attacked and killed because he was thought to be cooperating with law enforcement. This juvenile’s remains were also buried.

The below table lists the name of each defendant, at least one alias, age, country of origin, and the charge(s).

Name

Age, Country of Origin

Charges

Elmer Zelaya Martinez, aka “Killer”

27, El Salvador

Conspiracy to Kidnap

Erick Palacios Ruiz, aka “Cara de Malo”

20, El Salvador

Conspiracy to Kidnap

Ronald Herrera Contreras, aka “Speedy”

20, El Salvador

Conspiracy to Kidnap

Josue Vigil Mejia, aka “Horror”

21, El Salvador

Conspiracy to Kidnap

Henry Zelaya Martinez, aka “Certero”

24, El Salvador

Conspiracy to Kidnap

Oscar Contreras Aguilar, aka “Atrevido”

20, El Salvador

Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering; Conspiracy to Kidnap

Yonathan Melgar Martinez, aka “Oso”

21, El Salvador

Conspiracy to Kidnap

Pablo Miguel Barrera Velasco, aka “Oscuro”

20, El Salvador

Conspiracy to Kidnap

Anderson Villatoro, aka “Enterrado”

21, El Salvador

Conspiracy to Kidnap

Francisco Avila Avalos, aka “Picador”

20, El Salvador

Conspiracy to Kidnap

Fredys Baires Abarca, aka “Lil Clandestino”

20, El Salvador

Conspiracy to Kidnap

 

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

The case was also investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Operation Devils's Background. 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.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Colonel Edwin C. Roessler Jr., Fairfax County Chief of Police, made the announcement after the indictment was unsealed. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebeca H. Bellows, J. Tyler McGaughey, and Alexander E. Blanchard are 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 is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:18-cr-123.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Contact: 
Joshua Stueve Director of Communications joshua.stueve@usdoj.gov
Updated June 26, 2018