Home Washington Press Releases 2009 MS-13 Gunman Sentenced 80 Years for Attempted Murder

MS-13 Gunman Sentenced 80 Years for Attempted Murder

U.S. Attorney’s Office October 30, 2009
  • Eastern District of Virginia (703) 299-3700

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Dennis L. Gil Bernardez, 33, of Landover, Md., the gunman in an MS-13 shooting, was sentenced to 80 years in prison today for attempting to murder rival gang members on Oct. 6, 2008, at a park near homes in Reston, Va. His accomplice, Jose M. Aguilar Orantes, 18, of Reston, Va., who provided the firearm, was sentenced to 55 years in prison for his role in the attempted murders.

A third member, Carlos B. Guzman Cruz, 25, of Richmond, Va., was sentenced to 144 months in prison for getting rid of the firearm used in the shooting.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office; Jennifer S. Love, Special Agent in Charge of the Richmond Division of the FBI; Colonel David Rohrer, Fairfax County Chief of Police; Toussaint Summers, Chairman of the Board of Chiefs of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force; and Thierry G. Dupuis, Chief of Police for Chesterfield County Police made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge Liam O’Grady.

“The victims in this case were targeted by MS-13 for one reason— they were rivals,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “The victims are fortunate to be alive today, but other MS-13 rivals have not been so fortunate. I’m grateful for the dedicated men and women in law enforcement who made today’s sentencing possible. This case should send a clear signal that MS-13—despite its strict rules against cooperating with law enforcement—can be investigated and that would-be murderers can be brought to justice.”

According to court documents evidence at trial, Aguilar Orantes and Bernardez sought out members of the 18th Street and Crips gangs as retribution for an earlier assault on Aguilar Orantes. Aguilar Orantes and Bernardez located the two victims in a residential park, where they were sitting with a third victim, who was not a gang member. As they approached the three victims, Aguilar Orantes pointed out two of them to Bernardez as having been involved in the earlier attack. After pointing out the victims, Aguilar Orantes stepped back, as Bernardez pulled out a .357 revolver from his waistband and shot at the victims six times. One victim’s jacket was pierced by a bullet as he ran, barely missing him. The other two victims were critically wounded and taken to Fairfax Hospital suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

After the shooting, Cruz sold the .357 that Bernardez used in the shooting to a person in Richmond, Va., with the understanding that the gun would be hidden in an auto frame and shipped out of the country. Unbeknownst to Cruz, the person to whom he sold the gun was an FBI informant posing as an MS-13 gang member.

On July 29, 2009, Aguilar Orantes and Bernardez were found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, attempted murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and use and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence. Cruz was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to attempted murder in aid of racketeering and assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering. Bernardez and Cruz were also convicted of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.

This case was investigated by the Washington Field Office and Richmond Field Office of the FBI, the Fairfax County Police Department, the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, and the Chesterfield County Police.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pacer.login.uscourts.gov.