ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WRIC) — A jury has convicted seven MS-13 gang members and associates on charges of sex trafficking a minor under the age of 14 and other child exploitation offenses.
According to the Department of Justice, the 13-year-old female victim ran away from a youth home in northern Virginia in August 2018. Shortly after, the girl was introduced to members of the MS-13 gang. The gang members told the teen that they would be her family and protect her if she joined the gang.
The DOJ went on to say that gang members then beat the girl 26 times with a baseball bat as a part of the gang initiation.
The girl was then sex trafficked throughout Virginia and Maryland using cash and drugs as currency, according to the release. The DOJ said in one instance in Virginia, men lined up to have sex with the victim in a wooded area behind two of the defendants’ apartment complex.
The girl was also harbored in various apartments in northern Virginia, where “men paid her and her handlers cash for sex,” according to the DOJ.
The victim was later beaten with a bat, again 26 times, as a form of gang punishment. The release stated that shortly after the second bat beating, the girl was taken to Maryland where she was sold to numerous gang members and other customers in exchange for cash and drugs.
The DOJ said law enforcement recovered photographs and videos of the victim being sexually exploited, along with numerous social media messages regarding the trafficking and sexual exploitation of her.
The seven members convicted – Moises Zeyala-Veliz, 26, Jose Eliezar Molina-Veliz, 22, Santos Ernesto Gutierrez Castro, 22, Luis Alberto Gonzales, 33, Reina Elizabeth Hernandez, 50, Gilberto Morales, 34 and Jonathan Rafael Zeyala-Veliz, 26 – each faces a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of life in prison.