Gang Slaying Draws 2nd Life Term

By Jamie Stockwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 17, 2005

A member of the violent street gang Mara Salvatrucha was sentenced yesterday in Alexandria federal court to life in prison for his role in the fatal shooting of a rival gang member almost two years ago, officials said.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III ordered Alirio Reyes, 27, of Herndon to spend the rest of his life in prison for the May 2004 slaying of Jose Sandoval, 17.

Reyes agreed to plead guilty to the federal charges on the third day of his trial in September. By accepting the terms of the plea, Reyes became the second person convicted in a regionwide effort to target the mostly Latino gang using broad federal racketeering laws.

His accomplice, Osmin Heriberto Alfaro-Fuentes, 27, pleaded guilty in September and was the first Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, member convicted in the Washington region on racketeering charges. He was sentenced to a mandatory life term last week.

"With these sentencings, two extremely dangerous gang members will be off the street permanently," U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty said in a statement. "This victim was senselessly gunned down in the prime of his life. This case demonstrates the destructiveness of gang membership."

Sandoval's slaying also heightened awareness of the Washington area's growing problem with gangs such as MS-13. It came less than a week after a gang-related machete attack on a 16-year-old in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County.

Together, the episodes galvanized interest from politicians and led to more law enforcement task forces and increased anti-gang education efforts in the region.

Reyes and Alfaro-Fuentes were indicted last December on racketeering and other counts for their roles in the slaying of Sandoval, who also lived in Herndon. The case spotlighted the increasing use of racketeering charges, which have long been used to combat more traditional organized crime, against violent street gangs.

Federal prosecutors in Maryland recently charged 19 MS-13 members with racketeering counts, the first such cases brought there, after a surge of gang violence.

Prosecutors said Alfaro-Fuentes and Reyes confronted Sandoval and a 16-year-old girl as they walked in the area of Cavalier Drive and Park Avenue in Herndon to determine whether they were rival gang members.

In his plea three months ago, Reyes said he shot both teenagers because Sandoval said he was a member of the rival 18th Street gang and because the rules of MS-13 required him to attack rival gang members, prosecutors said. The companion was wounded.

Alan Yamamoto, an attorney for Reyes, did not return a message left for him.

In an interview in September, he said his client felt compelled to shoot Sandoval but didn't mean to hit the girl. "It was absolutely senseless," he said.

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