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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 9, 2016

MS-13 Gangsters Convicted of Multiple Murders and Attempted Murder

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Six members of the street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, were convicted today by a federal jury for their roles in three murders and one attempted murder in Northern Virginia, among other charges.

“These violent gang members brutally murdered three men and attempted to murder a fourth,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Extreme violence is the hallmark of MS-13, and these horrific crimes represent exactly what the gang stands for. This was a highly complicated, death penalty eligible case with 13 defendants and more than two dozen defense attorneys. To say I am proud of our trial team and investigative partners is an understatement. I want to thank them for their terrific work on this case and for bringing these criminals to justice.”

“The defendants terrorized our local communities with senseless, depraved acts of threats, intimidation and violence,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “They murdered in the name of MS-13, but as this jury’s verdict makes clear, no gang can protect them from facing justice for their crimes. This verdict sends a clear message that the FBI will hold violent gangs and murderers fully accountable for their actions.  I would like to thank the agents, analysts and prosecutors for their tireless efforts to eradicate gang violence in our communities.”

A total of 13 defendants were charged in this case. Of those, six defendants went to trial and were convicted of all charges. Six defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial, and one defendant was severed from the case and will have a separate trial at a later date. Please see the table at the end of this press release for additional information on each defendant.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on Oct. 1, 2013, Jose Lopez Torres, Jaime Rosales Villegas and others drove to Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge to murder a fellow gang member.  However, one of the gang members in the car had not only alerted police to the murder plot, he also made recorded phone calls and wore a body wire to a meeting where the gang members, including Pedro Anthony Romero Cruz, who participated from prison on a contraband cell phone, planned the murder. The gang members’ vehicle was under surveillance that night, the victim had been warned to not be at school, and the informant was wearing a body wire.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on Oct. 7, 2013, Torres, Omar DeJesus Castillo, Juan Carlos Marquez Ayala, Araely Santiago Villanueva, Jose Del Cid, and three others murdered fellow gang member Nelson Omar Quintanilla Trujillo. The gang believed Trujillo was a snitch, and so the gang members lured him to Holmes Run Park in Falls Church, and brutally killed him by stabbing him with knives and slashing him with a machete. When they were done they buried Trujillo in a shallow grave.  Several gang members returned a short time later and, with the assistance of Alvin Gaitan Benitez, reburied the body of Trujillo.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on March 29, 2014, Castillo, Benitez, Christian Lemus Cerna, Manuel Ernesto Paiz Guevara, Villanueva, Del Cid, and one other murdered Gerson Adoni Martinez Aguilar, a gang recruit, for breaking gang rules.  Like Trujillo, the gang members lured him to Holmes Run Park and killed him. They stabbed him repeatedly, cut off his head, and then buried him in a shallow grave.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on June 19, 2014, Jesus Alejandro Chavez, Del Cid, and Genaro Sen Garcia murdered Julio Urrutia. Several gang members including Chavez, who had been released from prison eight days earlier, were out looking for rival gang members when they approached a group of young men, flashed their gang signs, and challenged them about their gang affiliation. During the exchange Chavez pulled out a gun and shot Urrutia in the neck at point blank range.

Each defendant convicted at trial faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison when sentenced.  Villegas and Cruz face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit murder charge, in addition to a consecutive minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.  Villegas also faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the attempted murder charge. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Colonel Edwin C. Roessler, Jr., Chief of Police, Fairfax County Police Department; Earl L. Cook, Chief of Police, Alexandria City Police Department; and Stephan M. Hudson, Chief of Police, Prince William County Police Department, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee.  

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julia K. Martinez and Tobias D. Tobler are prosecuting the case.  The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the Fairfax County Police Department’s Gang Investigations Unit, the Prince William County Police Department, and the Alexandria City Police Department.

The case is the product of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).  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.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:14-cr-306.

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Name

Age, Hometown

Charges Convicted of

Sentence or

Sentencing Date

Pedro Anthony Romero Cruz

28, unknown

Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering; Possession of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence

July 15

Jose Lopez Torres

26, Falls Church

Conspiracy, Attempted, and Murder in Aid of Racketeering; Possession of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence

August 5

Jaime Rosales Villegas

31, Richmond

Conspiracy and Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering; Possession of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence

May 20

Juan Carlos Marquez Ayala

22, Falls Church

Murder in Aid of Racketeering

June 3

Omar Dejesus Castillo

26, Arlington

Two Counts of Murder in Aid of Racketeering

August 12

Alvin Gaitan Benitez

23, Falls Church

Murder in Aid of Racketeering, Accessory After the Fact

September 9

Christian Lemus Cerna

20, Falls Church

Murder in Aid of Racketeering

September 9

Araely Santiago Villanueva

18, Falls Church

Two Counts of Murder in Aid of Racketeering

Life sentence

Manuel Ernesto Paiz Guevara

21, Falls Church

Murder in Aid of Racketeering

September 9

Jose Del Cid

18, Alexandria

Two Counts of Murder in Aid of Racketeering

Two life sentences

Jesus Alejandro Chavez

25, Alexandria

Murder in Aid of Racketeering; Use of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence Resulting in Death; Felon in Possession of a Firearm

August 5

Genaro Sen Garcia

19, unknown

Murder in Aid of Racketeering

Life sentence

Topic: 
Violent Crimes
Updated May 12, 2016