Members of MS-13 and associates arrested for sex trafficking a minor

Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.

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On August 5th, the Department of Justice announced that "11 members or close associates" of MS-13 had been arrested as a result of an investigation into the sex trafficking of a minor identified as "Minor 2" in Virginia and Maryland.

 

“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,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

 

This case dates back to 2018 when Minor 2, a 13-year-old, was reported to have run away from a youth home in northern Virginia.  A short time later, she met members of MS-13 who then beat her with a bat 26 times, allegedly as a right of initiation into the gang.

 

Minor 2 was then sex trafficked in Virginia and Maryland for cash and drugs.  "While in Virginia, men lined up to have sex with her in a wooded area behind one target's apartment complex," the press release reads.

 

Minor 2 was once again beaten with a bat 26 times and then transported to Maryland where she was again trafficked.  "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 MINOR 2."

 

“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,” said Robert E. Bornstein, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division. “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 the press release, a charge of sex trafficking a minor carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison with the possibility of life.  Charges of VICAR (violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity) assault has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.  "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."

 

The individuals arrested as a result of this operation are:

 

Name, Age Hometown Charges
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)
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