Edwin Flores, a 23 year-old Belize City Resident, and his 16 year-old girlfriend are currently remanded to the Belize Central Prison because police allegedly caught them in the act of trying to extort an Orange Walk businessman by sending death threats to his family. Thorough police investigation has also unearthed the man who will be charged for that arson on New Town Barracks in Belize City which killed a 21 year-old mother of 3. More serious than that, is that these 2 crimes are being tied back to the violent transnational gang known as the MS-13.
Readers may be aware that this gang found its roots in Los Angeles, but it can now be found in other parts of the US. It has also established membership across borders, such as in Mexico, Honduras, and other Central American Countries. It is very worrying that this gang is at play in Belize’s underworld because, it has a reputation for kidnapping, torture, murder, and retaliation. Belizean Law Enforcement has linked the gang’s membership to 3 high-profile crimes.
According to police, Wilbert Valencia, a resident from Orange Walk, reported that on Tuesday, July 22, he was contacted by a man who demanded that he must hand over $8,000 in cash, or a member of his family would be killed. He left specific instructions that Valencia must put the money in a bag and leave it in the Lord Ridge Cemetery.
With that information, police set up a sting operation, where they allowed Valencia to deliver the money as instructed. They conducted surveillance on the package, and as soon as a woman picked it up, officers followed her. The woman took the money to an area in Kings Park, where she met up with Flores, Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Carlos Reyes, Hilberto Ruis Sr., and Elvin Guiterrez. As soon as she handed over the money to Flores, Police detained all 5 persons. They were able to link Flores to the extortion communication, and so he was charged with blackmail, while the woman, who was identified as his 16 year-old girlfriend was charged with abetment to blackmail.
They were both arraigned on Friday, July 25, before Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer, but no plea was taken from them. On the strength of the objections from the police prosecutor, they were remanded to the Belize Central Prison until September 16, their next court date.
As for Francisco Rodriguez, police say that he was wanted in Benque Viejo Town for an armed robbery, and when he was transferred there and charged, he pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him at his arraignment. He’s now serving a 5 year prison sentence for that crime. Investigators say that under interrogation, he confessed to setting the fire on New Town Barracks which burnt down Kimmies Bar, Business Computer System, and Pandora’s Café. Readers may remember that in that fire, which occurred in the early morning hours of Wednesday, June 25, Jacqueline Arteaga, a 21 year-old mother of 3, perished because she was trapped inside her apartment at Kimmie’s Bar. He will be charged and arraigned at the earliest convenience for the crimes of arson and manslaughter. Police intelligence is that he is also connected to the MS-13 Gang.
As for Jose Carlos Reyes, Hilberto Ruis Sr., and Elvin Guiterrez, they’ve been charged with displaying gang insignias for their MS-13 tattoos.