ALEXANDRIA, Virginia Eleven members or close associates of the infamous MS-13 gang were arrested this week and face numerous charges relating to sexual exploitation and physical abuse of a 13-year old girl in northern Virginia and Maryland.
The men are accused of repeatedly beating the girl, a runaway, into submission with a baseball bat, and then trafficking her for sex, including staging gang-bangs where men lined up to have sex with her.
After doing the rounds in Virginia the young teen was then given another round of beatings with a baseball bat, before being shipped to Maryland to be repeatedly sold to other gang members for sex.
"Sex traffickers often prey upon the most vulnerable victims in our society, and when combined with the horrific abuses of a gang like MS-13, the effects can be devastating," G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said this week. "I have personally handled the prosecution of MS-13 members in northern Virginia for over a decade, including for gang-controlled sex trafficking, and I have led meaningful outreach efforts with the Hispanic community in order to raise public awareness of these serious threats. As I've noted before, no one suffers more at the hands of MS-13 than other individuals of Central American birth or ancestry, and cases like this are proof of the need for community leaders to step up, acknowledge this reality, and work together to be part of the solution. These defendants are charged with heinous offenses, but are appropriately presumed innocent unless or until proven otherwise."
According to court documents, in Aug. 2018, the 13-year-old girl, identified as MINOR 2, ran away from a youth home in northern Virginia. Shortly after running away, she was introduced to members of MS-13. Members of the gang beat the girl 26 times with a baseball bat as part of a gang initiation. Gang members then sex trafficked her in Virginia and Maryland using the currency of cash and drugs. While in Virginia, men lined up to have sex with her in a wooded area behind one of the member's apartment complex. The men gave her drugs in exchange for sex. She also was harbored in various apartments in northern Virginia where men paid her and her handlers cash for sex.
"MS-13 is known for their violence and intimidation, but the horrific crimes alleged in this case show how their cruelty and depravity know no bounds," Robert E. Bornstein, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division said this week. "The FBI and our community will not stand by while children are beaten, plied with drugs, and trafficked for sex. We will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to disrupt violent gang activity and bring justice on behalf of the innocent victims on whom they prey."
According to court documents, MINOR 2 was later beaten again with a bat 26 times. After the second bat beating, she was transported to Maryland, where she was sold to numerous gang members and other customers in exchange for cash. Law enforcement recovered photographs and videos of MINOR 2 while being sexually exploited, along with numerous social media messages regarding the trafficking and sexual exploitation of her.
"Today's arrests are a prime example of the commitment and dedication of local police officers and federal agents to safeguard northern Virginia against crime and violence," said Edwin C. Roessler Jr., Chief of Fairfax County Police. "The Fairfax County police department will continue to use every resource and leverage the full weight of our agency and our federal partners to prevent violence by interdicting organized crime and holding alleged criminal street gangs accountable."
Below is a list of individuals arrested in the operation:
|Moises Orlando Zelaya-Veliz, 25||Woodbridge, VA||Sex trafficking a minor victim under the age of 14 in or effecting interstate commerce ("Sex Trafficking of a Minor") (18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1), (b)(1), (c) and 2)|
|Sioni Alexander Bonilla Gonzalez, 20||Woodbridge, VA||Sex Trafficking of a Minor (18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1), (b)(1), (c) and 2) and Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering Activity through assault with a dangerous weapon ("VICAR Assault") (18 U.S.C. 1959(a)(3) and 2)|
|Carlos Jose Turicios Villatoro, 22||Woodbridge, VA||VICAR Assault (18 U.S.C. 1959(a)(3) and 2)|
|Jose Eliezar Molina-Veliz, 20||Woodbridge, VA||Sex Trafficking of a Minor (18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1), (b)(1), (c) and 2)|
|Santos Ernesto Gutierrez Castro, 21||Woodbridge, VA||Sex Trafficking of a Minor (18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1), (b)(1), (c) and 2)|
|Luis Alberto Gonzales, 31||Greenbelt, MD||Sex Trafficking of a Minor (18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1), (b)(1), (c) and 2)|
|Reina Elizabeth Hernandez, 48||Hyattsville, MD||Sex Trafficking of a Minor (18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1), (b)(1), (c) and 2)|
|Nelson Ezequiel Caballero Portillo, 24||College Park, MD||Sex Trafficking of a Minor (18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1), (b)(1), (c) and 2)|
|Gilberto Morales, 31||Hyattsville, MD||Sex Trafficking of a Minor (18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1), (b)(1), (c) and 2)|
|Jonathan Rafael Zelaya-Veliz, 24||Hyattsville, MD||Sex Trafficking of a Minor (18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1), (b)(1), (c) and 2)|
|Orlando Alexis Salmeron Funez, 38||Riverdale, MD||Sex Trafficking of a Minor (18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1), (b)(1), (c) and 2)|
If convicted, each defendant charged with sex trafficking of a minor faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison, and each defendant charged with VICAR assault faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted of that offense. 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.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Robert E. Borstein, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office; Colonel Edwin C. Roessler Jr., Fairfax County Chief of Police; and Jarad L. Phelps, Chief of Prince William County Police, made the announcement of the arrests this week. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maureen C. Cain and Seth Schlessinger are prosecuting the case.
The case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office's Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, which is composed of FBI Agents and Task Force Officers from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the Fairfax County Police, the Arlington County Police, the Alexandria City Police, the Prince William County Police and other surrounding agencies. Investigative and tactical assistance has been provided by the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Enforcement Removal Operations, the FBI Baltimore Field Office, FBI Norfolk Field Office, FBI Richmond Field Office, along with the Prince George's County Police and the Montgomery County Police.
(File photo. Credit: Photographee.eu/Fotolia