WASHINGTON–Chief U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Conrad Jr. today formally imposed the federal death penalty sentence on Alejandro Enrique Ramirez Umana, aka “Wizard,” announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins of the Western District of North Carolina. A 12-person federal jury in Charlotte, N.C., voted unanimously on April 28, 2010, to impose the death penalty against Umana after convicting him on April 19, 2010, on charges related to the murders on Dec. 8, 2007, of Ruben Garcia Salinas and his brother, Manuel Garcia Salinas. Umana is the first La Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 member in the United States to receive the federal death penalty.
Umana, 25, of Charlotte, was convicted by the jury on all charged counts, including conspiracy to participate in racketeering; two counts of murder in aid of the racketeering enterprise known as MS-13; two counts of murder resulting from the use of a gun in a violent crime; possession of a firearm by an illegal alien; one count of extortion; and two criminal counts associated with witness tampering or intimidation. During the sentencing phase, the jury also found that Umana was responsible for other murders. Specifically, the jury found that on July 27, 2005, Umana killed Jose Herrera and Gustavo Porras in Los Angeles, and on Sept. 28, 2005, Umana participated and aided and abetted the killing of Andy Abarca in Los Angeles.
Umana was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 23, 2008. Witnesses testified at his trial that Umana was a veteran member of MS-13 who illegally came to Charlotte to assist in reorganizing the Charlotte MS-13 cell. Witnesses also testified that on Dec. 8, 2007, while in Las Jarochitas, a family-run restaurant in Greensboro, N.C., Umana shot Ruben Garcia Salinas fatally in the chest and Manuel Garcia Salinas in the head. Witnesses testified that the shootings took place after the Garcia Salinas brothers had “disrespected” Umana’s gang signs by calling them “fake.” Firing three more shots in the restaurant, according to trial testimony, Umana injured another individual with his gunfire. Trial testimony and evidence showed that Umana later fled back to Charlotte with MS-13 assistance. Umana was arrested five days later in possession of the murder weapon. Additional evidence and testimony from the trial revealed that while Umana was incarcerated pending trial, he coordinated attempts to kill witnesses and informants. During trial, Umana attempted to bring a knife with him to the courtroom, which was discovered by U.S. Marshals prior to Umana being transported to the courthouse.
“Violent gangs like MS-13 terrorize communities across this country,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “As the evidence in this case showed, murder and intimidation are a way of life for some members of this gang. Although there is no punishment that will bring back the lives taken by the defendant, this series of prosecutions of MS-13, and the punishments imposed, should make abundantly clear to gang members that we will not let them operate with impunity. As today’s sentence shows, their criminal actions have serious consequences.”
“The imposition of the death penalty – the harshest sentence in the criminal justice system – is a sobering event for all involved in the investigation and prosecution,” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins. “The death penalty in this case is fair, just, and merited. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, based upon the facts and evidence, advocated for the death penalty, and the jury agreed that Umana deserved nothing less than the death penalty. I commend the investigators and prosecutors for engaging in this critical process with professionalism and integrity.”
“While the outcome of today’s hearing does not change that two innocent people are dead, it will hopefully bring closure to the families and loved ones of the men who were killed and the many other victims left in the wake of the MS-13 crime spree. This case has spanned international borders, taken years of investigation and thousands of hours of arduous work. It proves our law enforcement partners are determined to bring those who break the law to justice, regardless of the obstacles that may block the path,” said Owen D. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI.
“Our goals as law enforcement officers are to put an end to gang violence and see that those who are responsible are punished. This sentence serves as a reminder that gang violence has harsh consequences, and those who choose to be involved in gangs need to understand that their actions will not be tolerated. We have the motivation and determination to keep pursuing gang members. That motivation creates a safer Charlotte,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe.
The investigation of the MS-13 enterprise in Charlotte has led to charges against 26 MS-13 members. In addition to Umana, six defendants were convicted at trial in January 2010, and 18 others have pleaded guilty. One defendant remains in custody in El Salvador. To date, 11 of the 25 defendants convicted have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to 20 years.
The case was investigated by the Charlotte Safe Streets Task Force. The case was prosecuted by Chief Criminal Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, and Trial Attorney Sam Nazzaro from the Criminal Division’s Gang Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Don Gast and Adam Morris of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina were also members of the government’s trial team.