A 29-year-old man from Annandale will spend the rest of his life in federal prison after he was sentenced on Friday (Aug. 4) for participating in and helping cover up the murder of a fellow gang member.
Sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Jose Henry Hernandez-Garcia was convicted of racketeering, murder and conspiracy to destroy and conceal evidence on Dec. 16, 2022 after a two-week trial.
According to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, Hernandez-Garcia and at least three other members of the international gang MS-13 stabbed and killed an unnamed victim at the house of Jose Domingo Ordonez-Zometa — allegedly their branch’s leader — in Landover Hills, Maryland, on March 8, 2019.
Ordonez-Zometa had called a meeting to discuss suspicions that the victim was working with the police, prosecutors said in a news release.
During the questioning, Hernandez-Garcia, his co-defendants and at least one other MS-13 member assaulted Victim 1, based on their incorrect suspicions that Victim 1 was cooperating with law enforcement. They also assaulted another MS-13 member who attempted to defend Victim 1. The assault culminated with Ordonez-Zometa, as LGCS clique leader, ordering that Victim 1 be killed. Hernandez-Garcia, [Jose Rafael] Ortega-Ayala, and other MS-13 members then stabbed and murdered Victim 1 in Ordonez-Zometa’s basement.
According to trial testimony, after the murder, Ordonez-Zometa ordered Hernandez-Garcia, Ortega-Ayala, and other LGCS clique members and co-conspirators, to conceal and destroy evidence of the murder. Ortega-Ayala and other MS-13 members transported the body of the victim to a secluded location in Stafford County, Virginia, and set the victim’s body on fire, then destroyed and concealed evidence of the murder from the vehicle used to transport the victim. Meanwhile, Ordonez-Zometa, Hernandez-Garcia, and another MS-13 member stayed at the crime scene and attempted to remove, destroy, and conceal evidence of the murder, including the blood of Victim 1.
Ordonez-Zometa and Ortega-Ayala were also convicted in December. The former was given life in prison on March 6, while the latter could get the same sentence at a hearing on Sept. 25.
This isn’t the first time a Fairfax County resident has been convicted of a murder tied to MS-13 activities. Last November, five people were sentenced to life in prison for killing two teens at Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in Annandale in 2016.
Photo via Wesley Tingey/Unsplash
An Alexandria man was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Wednesday (May 10) for selling fentanyl to a woman who died from an overdose in Clifton in 2021.
Reza Hashemi, 34, was sentenced for conspiring to distribute over 400 grams of fentanyl in Northern Virginia between July 2020 and June 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release announcing the judgment by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.
According to court documents, Fairfax County police were called to a home in the Clifton area on May 28, 2021 by a witness who told 911 that a woman had taken an “unknown white substance” and needed naloxone, the drug that can reverse opioid overdoses.
A woman identified as J.F. was found unresponsive in the residence’s basement and pronounced deceased at 11:44 p.m. after failed resusitation efforts, one of the responding police officers said in an affidavit.
The witness told police that they had obtained powder fentanyl from Hashemi at a spot near Reed Avenue in Alexandria City.
Police arrested Hashemi in Tysons on June 2, 2021 after he dropped off fentanyl that the witness had arranged to buy from him, according to the affidavit.
Court records indicate that Hashemi reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in February.
“Mr. Hashemi became addicted to opioids after suffering trauma early in his life. He accepted responsibility early on in this case and continues to do so,” the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Alexandria, which represented Hashemi, said in a statement. “Although we do not agree that the sentence imposed was necessary, Mr. Hashemi accepts the court’s decision and is determined to address his own addiction through the next 15 years and beyond.”
In announcing the sentencing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office also linked Hashemi to the Oct. 24, 2020, fatal overdose of a 22-year-old man identified as J.V. in Vienna.
Hashemi distributed drugs, including “pressed counterfeit pills containing fentanyl,” to J.V. from Sept. 18, 2020 to “at least” Oct. 14, 2020, according to a statement of facts filed by prosecutors. After police informed him of J.V.’s death, Hashemi said he didn’t want to talk to law enforcement without a lawyer.
Court documents don’t explain how police determined that the drugs involved in J.V.’s overdose were the ones he got from Hashemi. The U.S. Attorney’s Office didn’t respond to FFXnow’s request for comment by press time.
“The government’s repeated insinuations in connection with [Hashemi’s] invocation of his right to counsel misrepresent the facts and betray an ignorance of every individual’s constitutional rights,” the public defender’s office said.
Photo via Google Maps
A local Navy reserve officer has been sentenced to prison for having unregistered gun silencers that he bought after participating in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection.
Hatchet Speed, a 41-year-old Falls Church resident who once worked for a defense contractor in Vienna, was handed a three-year prison sentence by U.S. District Judge Michael S. Nachmanoff, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced Thursday (April 13).
According to prosecutors, Speed bought three silencers from a Georgia company in March 2021 while “panic buying” at least a dozen guns in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.
From February to May 2021, Speed purchased at least twelve firearms and spent more than $40,000 at stores that sold firearms, firearm accessories, and ammunition. According to court documents, the defendant began stockpiling weapons after participating in the incursion at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, a time when he anticipated civil war and spoke of the need for political violence.
In March 2021, during the midst of his firearm purchases, Speed purchased three silencers from a company in Georgia. While the silencers were marketed as “solvent traps” ostensibly to be used in cleaning the barrel of a firearm, they were actually designed to serve as silencers. The silencers were not registered to Speed in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, as required by law. By circumventing the registration requirements for silencers, Speed was able to take possession of the silencers within a week of purchasing them.
Speed told an undercover FBI agent in early 2022 that he believed the “solvent traps,” or silencers, “would come in handy” for fulfilling his vision of targeting and killing “the opposition,” meaning Jewish people, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A federal grand jury in Alexandria indicted Speed on three counts of possessing unregistered silencers — one for each of the devices — on Sept. 14, 2022 and he was convicted on Jan. 20. He faced a maximum potential sentence of 30 years in prison.
Last month, a federal judge in D.C. convicted Speed for felony obstruction and four misdemeanor crimes related to the Capitol insurrection. Spotted in security footage wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, Speed spent just over 40 minutes wandering the Capitol building halls before exiting through a window, an FBI agent said in a statement of facts.
Speed is scheduled to be sentenced in that case on May 8, according to the Washington Post.
According to the FBI agent’s statement, Speed is a petty first-class officer in the U.S. Naval Reserves assigned to the Naval Warfare Space Field Activity at the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly.
He previously worked a software developer for a defense contractor in Vienna before resigning “as he delved deeper into fringe ideologies,” the Post reported.
Speed isn’t the only Fairfax County resident to face criminal charges related to the Capitol attack. Springfield resident Joseph Brody was charged in September after allegedly assaulting a police officer with a barricade.
A 25-year-old man whose extensive stash of fentanyl was discovered after a police pursuit in Lorton last summer now faces over 11 years in prison.
A federal judge sentenced Alpha Amin Kamara to 135 months in prison on Friday (March 10) for engaging in a conspiracy to distribute thousands of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl around Northern Virginia, federal prosecutors announced.
Identified as an Alexandria resident, Kamara was arrested on June 26, just days after being released from custody in connection to an earlier drug trafficking case.
More from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia:
According to court documents, Alpha Amin Kamara, 25, engaged in a conspiracy to distribute thousands of fentanyl pills from May 2022 until his arrest on June 26, 2022. Kamara was serving a term of home confinement when he entered the conspiracy, following his release from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons just days earlier. He immediately began distributing fentanyl pills to customers in northern Virginia, which he obtained through the U.S. Postal Service from sources in Arizona and Washington state.
On June 26, 2022, while driving a stolen vehicle, Kamara led police on a chase at speeds in excess of 140 miles per hour on Interstate 95. The resulting crash led to the discovery of over 18,000 fentanyl pills in the back of the stolen vehicle.
A day after his arrest, Kamara was released on his own recognizance, a decision attributed to a Fairfax County General District Court judge, according to FOX5.
His release came even though he had recently exited house arrest and was still under supervised custody for a 2017 case, where he was found guilty of possessing a firearm in furtherance a drug trafficking crime.
According to news reports from that time, Kamara was arrested by U.S. Marshals in December 2017 after a 12-hour standoff with police in Norfolk. In 2018, he was sentenced to five years in prison as part of a larger case known as “Operation Tin Panda.”
A day after he was released from Fairfax County jail last June, Kamara was arrested again by federal agents and held on federal charges, FOX5 reported. He was sentenced Friday at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria by Senior Judge T. S. Ellis, III.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) A man from Miami, Florida, pleaded guilty today to assaulting a flight attendant and interfering with the crew on a plane that was headed to Dulles International Airport in October, federal prosecutors announced.
Cherruy Loghan Sevilla, 24, exhibited “erratic and disruptive behavior” during a United Airlines flight from Miami to Dulles on Oct. 4, at one point preventing a flight attendant from getting to her jump seat and groping her, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said.
From the news release:
About an hour into the flight, Sevilla began to exhibit disruptive and erratic behavior, including wandering around the plane, running up and down the aisle, clapping loudly near the cockpit, and yelling obscenities. Sevilla refused to remain seated and laid on the floor in the aisle of the plane, preventing a flight attendant from walking up the aisle to her jump seat to prepare for landing. Suddenly, the defendant jumped up and lunged at this flight attendant, grabbing and twisting her right breast. A passenger, another flight attendant, and an onboard law enforcement officer attempted to pull the defendant off and subdue him. The defendant resisted and, in the struggle, twisted the arm of the second flight attendant.
As USA Today reported in October, the man told agents at the FBI office in Dulles that he took psilocybin — a psychedelic drug also known as “magic mushrooms” — before boarding the plane in Miami, according to an affidavit.
“This was not the first time Sevilla had consumed Psilocybin, and Sevilla said that he was not totally surprised he acted this way after consuming it,” an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. “Sevilla stated that he was sorry for his actions.”
Sevilla has been scheduled for a sentencing hearing on April 21. He could face up to 20 years in prison, though federal crimes are typically sentenced for lower than the maximum penalties, according to the Department of Justice.
Though incidents have declined since March 2022, last year still had 823 reports of unruly passengers — the second-most recorded by the Federal Aviation Administration, behind only the 1,099 incidents reported in 2021.
Photo via John McArthur/Unsplash
A Herndon man could face up to 15 years in prison for the production of child pornography, according to authorities.
Vincent Joseph Sarikey, 34, appeared in court yesterday (Monday) for allegations that he attempted to groom minors, pushed them record themselves partaking in sexual activities, and engaged in “sexually exploit discussions” with at least two people who identified themselves as minors, the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Sarikey faces at least 15 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are usually less than maximum penalties.
Authorities believe the suspect encouraged at least two minors to produce sexually explicit materials and send them to him. Sarikey then allegedly provided the pictures to another individual who shared an interest in the minors, according to court documents.
Authorities say they found “hundreds of images and video of child sexual abuse material” on Sarikey’s electronic devices.
“These exchanges took place on several social media platforms, including Telegram, Twitter, and Discord under the monikers “John Lugne,” “@JLugne,” and “triadus#9325,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in its news release.
The FBI Washington Field Office’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force investigated the issue. It’s charged with bringing federal charges against individuals who engage in human trafficking or the exploitation of children.
Photo via Google Maps
A 29-year-old man from Mount Vernon could face life in prison after pleading guilty to transporting a teen for sexual purposes, the Department of Justice announced yesterday.
Apipat Vutipawat pleaded guilty last Thursday (Nov. 10) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to charges that, from May 29, 2020 through June 2, 2020, he transported an unidentified minor from Virginia to Pennsylvania “with the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
According to the Observer-Reporter, Vutipawat was arrested on May 14, 2020 in Pennsylvania’s Richhill Township after police found him in a vehicle with a 14-year-old girl who said he was her boyfriend. He had allegedly met the girl through a dating app and faced multiple local assault charges.
Vutipawat pleaded guilty to aggravated indecent assault in Washington County Court and was sentenced to over three years in prison on Jan. 14, according to court records.
Vutipawat was indicted on three federal charges in March 2021, including traveling with the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct, transportation with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and obstruction of justice.
With his guilty plea, he faces a total sentence between at least 10 years and life in prison, a fine of up to $750,000, or both, according to the DOJ.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on March 16, 2023.
“Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history of the defendant,” the DOJ news release said. “Pending sentencing, Vutipawat remains detained.”
The department says the case was part of its national Project Safe Childhood initiative, which started in May 2006 to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. The Fairfax County Police Department joined the investigation with federal, state and local law enforcement in Pennsylvania.
(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) A 57-year-old contractor from Centreville could face up to two decades in jail for using his custom home building company to defraud McLean homeowners.
Pedro Felipe Valdes Sanchez pleaded guilty yesterday to defrauding “several couples” who hired his company to build or remodel their houses in and around McLean, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced.
Unfolding from at least May 2017 through April 2018, the scheme saw Valdes take money from customers who believed he would use it to perform contracted work on their properties, according to the Department of Justice:
In the end, Valdes performed minimal work on these customers’ homes, sometimes only demolishing the existing residence on the customers’ property. Valdes also convinced one customer to lend him money by misrepresenting his company’s financial situation. He sometimes used client funds for personal expenses and routinely used funds from one client to fund another client’s projects.
Valdes targeted three couples, according to court documents, the DOJ told FFXnow.
Valdes’s plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema and announced by U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber and FBI Washington Field Office Special Agent in Charge Wayne Jacobs.
Valdes could be given a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
“Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties,” the DOJ said in its news release.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 14, 2023.
Photo via Josh Olalde on Unsplash
Five MS-13 members have been sentenced to life in prison yesterday for kidnapping and killing two teens at Annandale’s Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in 2016.
Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Ronald Herrera Contreras, Henry Zelaya Martinez, Pablo Velasco Barrera, and Duglas Ramirez Ferrera were each handed six terms of life imprisonment as well as two 120-month terms by U.S. District Court Judge Rossie D. Alston, Jr., the Justice Department announced yesterday.
A federal jury convicted the men in July for the brutal murders of a 17-year-old Falls Church resident — identified by prosecutors by the initials E.E.E.M. — on Aug. 18, 2016 and a 14-year-old Alexandria resident, identified as S.A.A.T., on Sept. 26, 2016.
“This is a profoundly disturbing case involving gang members taking the lives of young members of our community,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said. “We are proud to work with our federal partners on cases like this to keep Fairfax County and surrounding communities safe.”
Ranging in age from 24 to 31, the men attacked and stabbed E.E.E.M. over 100 times after meeting him at Holmes Run park, because they “erroneously suspected” that he was a member of the rival 18th Street gang, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office:
On the night of August 28, 2016, the gang lured E.E.E.M. to Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in Fairfax County under the pretense that there was going to be a gang meeting there. Instead, in a wooded area of the park, gang members restrained, attacked, and killed E.E.E.M., stabbing and chopping him more than 100 times with knives, a machete, and a pickaxe. Afterwards, the gang broke one of E.E.E.M.’s legs so that his body would fit into the pre-dug hole that was nearby.
Prosecutors say S.A.A.T. was killed in a similar manner based on an unfounded suspicion that he was a police informant:
The gang told S.A.A.T. that there was going to be a gang meeting later that night and encouraged him to attend. Not long thereafter, S.A.A.T. went outside in his pajamas, telling his mother he was just taking out the trash. Eventually, several gang members picked up S.A.A.T. and drove him to the same park where they had killed E.E.E.M. The gang members restrained, attacked, and killed S.A.A.T., stabbing and chopping him with knives, machetes, and a pickaxe. They also filmed the murder with a cell phone so that they could prove to gang leaders in the United States and in El Salvador that they deserved to be promoted in rank. Once S.A.A.T. was dead, the gang broke his legs and tied him up with his own pajama pants so that he would fit into the shallow grave that was dug for him that night.
Police didn’t find the remains of the two teens until March 2017 after they received a tip that prompted a two-day search of the area, according to news reports at the time. The park was also the site of murders by different MS-13 members in 2013.
The five men sentenced yesterday were all convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity, conspiracy to kidnap, murder in aid of racketeering activity, and kidnapping resulting in death.
There was a total of 17 defendants in the case, including nine people who pleaded guilty before the trial earlier this year, according to the DOJ.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Jessica Aber called the life sentences a “fitting” response to “appallingly violent murders” that resulted in “wrecked families and fear-stricken communities.”
“They will protect the public from these five defendants, send a message to other members and associates of MS-13 that there will be severe consequences for committing violent crimes in furtherance of their gang’s illicit activities, and provide a measure of justice for the victims and their families,” Aber said in a statement.
Image via Google Maps
A couple in Merrifield have been sentenced to prison for using the wife’s real estate job to steal people’s identities.
Caprice Foster, 51, and Marcus Foster, 33, took personal identifying information from at least nine people and used it to “buy a luxury vehicle, lease high-end residences, and obtain loans and credit,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said Friday (Oct. 14).
The information was primarily obtained through Caprice Foster’s work as a real estate agent and timeshare salesperson, per the news release:
To carry out their fraud scheme, the Fosters created numerous false identification documents in other people’s names, including social security cards and driver’s licenses, and they also fabricated tax and employment documents in their victims’ names. The Fosters opened fraudulent bank accounts using stolen identities and deposited stolen and altered checks into these accounts. The Fosters also incorporated a business that they used in furtherance of the fraud. Mr. Foster even impersonated victims in state court eviction proceedings to prolong the Fosters’ stay in residences they fraudulently leased.
Caprice Foster was sentenced to 80 months in prison, while Marcus has been sentenced to 58 months.
According to the Department of Justice, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis joined prosecutors at the sentencing announcement, along with officials from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Photo via Tierra Mallorca/Unsplash