The case surrounding the July 29 shooting of Maryland resident Claros Luna on Manor Road took on more definition last week as prosecutors and law enforcement officials announced the indictment of three illegal aliens linked to the prominent MS-13 gang.
Eris Arguera, 21, and Adolfo Portillo, 28, both of Alexandria, and 21-year-old Arlington resident Alcides Umana were each charged with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery and extortion, interference with commerce by robbery and extortion and use of a firearm during a crime of violence causing death, according to the November 24 indictment.
The FBI confirmed that all three suspects, born in El Salvador, were illegal immigrants living in the United States at the time of the murder. If convicted, the three would be released to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation upon completing their prison sentence.
The maximum penalty for the charges is life in prison or death, a U.S. District Court spokesperson said.
According to affidavits filed in the case, Luna, 40, had been lured into bringing a prostitute from Maryland to the 700 block of Manor Road in Alexandria where the suspects, armed with two large handguns and a knife, were waiting to obtain extortion payments code word rent from Luna for his dealings in the area.
When the suspects entered his vehicle and demanded money, Luna resisted and a struggle ensued, according to the affidavit. Umana told police he held a knife to Lunas neck, where he was cut during the scuffle.
Luna was then shot several times before the suspects took the money he and the prostitute were paid that day, along with their cell phones, and left the scene, the affidavit said.
The prostitute, unnamed in court documents and only identified as the first witness in the case, got the attention of an Alexandria police officer shortly after 6:30 p.m on the evening of the murder. Police later found Lunas body in the drivers seat of a 2002 silver Honda Accord.
The November 24 indictment said the suspects were part of a conspiracy to obtain money from individuals engaged in prostitution and conspirators included Mara Salvatrucha better known as MS-13 gang members.
Police determined that the cell phone used to call Luna and persuade him to bring a prostitute to Alexandria belonged to Arguera, who admitted to owning the phone and being in the area at the time of the murder, according to the affidavit.
The murder investigation involved members of the Alexandria Police Department and the FBIs Washington field office. The Fairfax County and Arlington County police departments and ICEs Office of Investigations in Washington also assisted.
According to law enforcement officials, the case became a federal one as it involved individuals crossing state lines. An FBI spokesperson said the Bureau was involved because its affiliation with the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force.
Alexandria police opted not to add any additional comment to its reports from earlier this year.
While its still at trial, what weve released is all that were going to release, Alexandria Police Department Spokeperson Ashley Hildebrandt said. I only know our part of the case, which isnt a lot because its federal.
A report released this year by the gang task force reported that an average of about 1,700 gang-related crimes occurred in the region each year between 2003 and 2008, an average of five each day. Of that number, roughly one serious crime murder, robbery, rape and others occurred each day.
In the six years leading up to 2009, Alexandria experienced a total of 74 serious gang-related crimes and just eight last year, according to the report.
MS-13 has the largest presence of any gang in Northern Virginia, with an estimated 3,000 members, the report said. Of the three suspects, Arguera admitted to being directly associated with the gang and had the letters MS tattooed on his legs, chest and back, court records said.
The three suspects were arrested over the course of several weeks in September and October, according to court documents.
Umana was processed at the Alexandria Detention Center on September 30 after being held for an unrelated matter at the Arlington jail and interviewed about his involvement in the Luna murder, according to court records.
Arguera was apprehended in Houston on October 19 and later moved to Alexandria. Portillo was arrested on October 21, court records said.
The trio is to be arraigned at 9 a.m. on Friday in U.S. District Court before Judge Anthony J. Trenga.