Six members of the street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, were convicted on Monday by a federal jury for their roles in a kidnapping, murder, and extortion conspiracy in Northern Virginia.
MS-13 gang members and associates Dublas Aristides Lazo, Lelis Ezequiel Tremino-Tobar, Carlos Benitez Pereira, Daniel Oswaldo Flores-Maravilla, Andres Alexander Velasquez-Guevara, Manuel Antonio Centeno, Wilmer Viera-Gonzalez, and Miguel Zelaya-Gomez targeted 18-year-old Carlos Otero-Henriquez, because they believed Otero-Henriquez was a member of the rival 18th Street gang.
On the evening of May 21, 2016, the gang members lured Otero-Henriquez into a vehicle occupied by Lazo, Treminio-Tobar, Pereira, Flores-Maravilla, Centeno, Viera-Gonzalez, and Zelaya-Gomez under the pretense that the group was going to a party. Instead, the group drove Otero-Henriquez to an isolated quarry near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
There, the group severely beat, restrained, and killed Otero-Henriquez, stabbing him more than 50 times with a knife. Afterwards, the gang left the Otero-Henriquez’s body in a nearby ditch and returned to the home of Shannon Sanchez in Leesburg. Sanchez, another associate of the gang, helped them burn their clothes and destroy other evidence of the crime.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, from January 2016 through April 2016, Juan Carlos Guadron-Rodriguez, Wilmar Javier Viera-Gonzalez, and Miguel Zelaya-Gomez engaged in a conspiracy to extort an individual victim residing in Leesburg, Virginia. They threatened violence to the victim and the his family unless he made regular extortion payments to the gang.
The victim’s family contacted law enforcement, and the victim thereafter wore an FBI body wire to record extortion payments he made to Guadron-Rodriguez and Zelaya-Gomez in March and April 2016. The FBI conducted surveillance of these payments both to ensure the victim’s safety, and to collect evidence against the gang. Through these investigative steps, the FBI was able to record and photograph Guadron-Rodriguez and Zelaya-Gomez in the act of taking extortion money from the victim.
A total of ten defendants were charged in this case. Of those, six defendants went to trial, and were convicted of all charges. Four defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial.
- Lazo, Treminio-Tobar, Pereira, and Flores-Maravilla face a mandatory sentence of life in prison for kidnapping resulting in death, in addition to the sentences they receive for conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering.
- Velasquez-Guevara faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
- Guadron-Rodriguez faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for each of the five extortion charges for which he was convicted.
- Sanchez faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for accessory after the fact.
“The hallmark of MS-13 is extreme violence,” said Tracy Doherty-McCormick, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This brutal kidnapping and murder is a tragic reminder of the impact MS-13 has on communities here in Northern Virginia. My hope is that our efforts to investigate and prosecute this case will send a clear message: Violence will be aggressively prosecuted.”
“This unfortunate and disturbing case serves as another example as to why law enforcement must not relent in pursuing criminal gangs such as MS-13, said Gregory C. Brown, Chief of Leesburg Police. “Through our collaborative partnerships, we will continue to aggressively investigate and work with prosecutors to ensure violent gang members receive the maximum punishment as allowed by the law. It is important for those who choose to engage in criminal gang activity to know that they are not welcome in our communities.”
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