Carlos Otero Henriquez told a friend he was a member of the 18th Street gang. On Facebook, he posted photos of himself flashing his gang’s signs. When members of the rival MS-13 gang noticed, the 18-year-old from Leesburg, Va., was targeted for murder.
“We’re always patrolling the area to make sure it’s clean of enemies,” Wilmar Javier Viera Gonzalez, a top Virginia MS-13 leader recently testified in Alexandria federal court. He showed jurors a notebook he kept full of MS-13 codes, nicknames and rules. Among the gang’s policies: To move up, “you must kill a rival.”
Before his arrest, Viera Gonzalez commanded a Northern Virginia chapter of MS-13 called Virginia Locos Salvatrucha and was in charge of the state for a larger group called the “East Coast Program.”
Now he has testified against six former subordinates, joining two other MS-13 members involved in the murder who hope their cooperation will get them out of prison before their own deaths. The trial is expected to conclude this week.
In court last week, Viera Gonzalez, who formerly held the title “first word” of the VLS, calmly admitted he ordered members of his gang to stab Henriquez to death in May 2016 so they could rise up in the ranks.
“He had no idea that night would be his last,” Assistant U.S. attorney Patricia Giles said of Henriquez in her opening statement. “He had no idea of the horrible death he would suffer.”
The criminal case is among several playing out across the D.C. region involving violence attributed to MS-13, which had a resurgence in the area and other parts of the country in recent years.
In the Alexandria federal court case, the members of the VLS chapter had learned through an associate Henriquez was in the 18th Street Gang, which has battled MS-13 in the United States and El Salvador for decades. “If he was [18th Street], we must kill him,” Viera Gonzalez said.
It was an MS-13 hanger-on named Andres Velasquez Guevara who alerted the gang members to the rival, according to court documents. He had become friends with Henriquez early in 2016. Early on, Velasquez Guevara later told police, he asked his new friend if he was in a gang.
Henriquez said yes: 18th Street.
“Here you don’t go around saying things like that,” Velasquez Guevara told police he responded. “Dangerous.”
When he became friends with Henriquez on Facebook in April, he saw the teenager had posted photos of himself making 18th Street gang signs. He passed those photos on to Miguel Gomez, an MS-13 member, according to court documents, who alerted gang leaders in El Salvador.
The message came back to kill Henriquez, Viera Gonzalez said.
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