Edgar Benitez Hernandez, also known as â€œShadow,â€ 25, of the District of San Miguel, El Salvador, pleaded guilty earlier this week to two counts of using and discharging a firearm during attempted murder in aid of racketeering.
Benitez Hernandez was extradited from El Salvador to the United States on Dec. 18, 2013, and had been indicted previously by an Eastern District of Virginia grand jury on June 13, 2010, on multiple racketeering charges, including attempted murder.
Benitez Hernandez faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum period of 35 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 23, 2014.
According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Benitez Hernandez, a soldier in the notoriously violent transnational street gang Mara Salvatrucha 13 (â€œMS-13â€), attempted to murder two individuals on Sept. 13, 2008, in Loudoun County. On that date, Benitez Hernandez concealed himself behind some shrubs and when the male and pregnant female victims were within range, he fired multiple shots while yelling â€œMara Salvatrucha Cabrones.â€
Both of the victims were critically injured and likely would have died were it not for immediate surgical intervention. The unborn baby also survived the wounding. Benitez Hernandez committed the double shooting to increase his position within MS-13â€™s criminal enterprise.
On May 22, 2013, Benitez Hernandez was apprehended in El Salvador by an elite Salvadoran investigative unit known as the Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Task Force. This extradition marks the first time in recent history that a Salvadoran citizen has been extradited to the United States to be held accountable for gang-related crimes committed in the United States.
â€œThe apprehension, extradition, and now conviction of this extremely violent gang member is indicative of both the cooperation and commitment of U.S. and Salvadoran law enforcement and prosecutors to bring to justice those criminals who commit violent acts on U.S. soil, even when the perpetrators flee the United States to the perceived safety of the Central American hills,â€ said Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.