COLUMBIA, S.C. - Lexington County Sheriff's Office fugitive investigators here on Monday extradited two men from Houston, Texas, to face murder charges in connection with the Nov. 2 fatal shooting of a 51-year-old West Columbia man. Lexington County Sheriff James R. Metts announced the extradition; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) assisted the Sheriff's Office with the investigation.
Josue Otoneil "Bicho" Benitez (left), 20, and Martin Frias "Chapin" Teran, 34, were brought to the Lexington County Detention Center at 9:50 p.m. on Monday. Benitez and Teran are members of the MS-13 criminal street gang who illegally entered the United States from Honduras.
They are being held at the Lexington County Detention Center while awaiting bond hearings. The 11th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office has not yet scheduled bond hearings.
Benitez and Teran are scheduled for their first appearance hearings at 3 p.m. on Dec. 16. During the hearings, a Lexington County magistrate will formally advise Benitez and Teran that they are charged with murder.
Detectives are also seeking to locate and ultimately extradite a third man, Juan Pedroza "Gordo" Carillo, 40, believed to be in Mexico, in connection with the Nov. 2 murder. Carillo is also a member of the MS-13 criminal street gang in Houston. Carillo illegally entered the United States from Mexico and has since returned.
ICE agents in Houston assisted the Sheriff's Office in the murder investigation by providing information which helped develop probable cause to obtain arrest warrants for Benitez, Carillo and Teran. ICE agents also determined that Benitez, Carillo and Teran had illegally entered the United States from foreign countries.
The arrest warrants allege that at 5:15 p.m. on Nov. 2 Benitez, Carillo and Teran allegedly conspired to kill Jorge Alberto Vindel Ramos, 51, of 101 Dubbs Drive, West Columbia. Ramos was shot once in the head and once in the chest with a .380-caliber handgun while Ramos was outside his home.
The motive for Ramos' murder remains under investigation, Metts said. Teran serves as a leader of the MS-13 criminal street gang in Houston and allegedly ordered Ramos to be killed. Teran has been wanted by Houston authorities since 2002 in connection with gang-related crimes. Ramos illegally entered the United States from Guatemala, according to ICE.
Ramos was working on his car in front of his home when he was shot, Metts said. After he allegedly shot Ramos, Benitez jumped into a late 1990s model Mazda B-2000 green pickup truck driven by Carillo.
Benitez, Carillo and Teran are accused of traveling to Lexington County from Houston about one month before Ramos was killed to make arrangements to carry out Ramos' murder, Metts said. The men bought the Mazda B-2000 pickup truck on Oct. 31 in Lexington County and a white pickup truck on Nov. 1 in Lexington County.
According to Sheriff Metts, Benitez, Carillo and Teran used the white pickup truck after they abandoned the Mazda B-2000 pickup truck following Ramos' murder. Deputies recovered the Mazda B-2000 pickup truck on Orchard Drive on Nov. 5.
Houston Police Department officers arrested Benitez on Nov. 14 in Houston on charges unrelated to Ramos' murder. Officers found that Benitez possessed a .380-caliber handgun. An analysis performed by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division determined that this was the same weapon used to murder Ramos.
On Nov. 17, Houston police officers arrested Teran in Houston on charges unrelated to Ramos' murder. Benitez and Teran were held at the Harris County Detention Center in Houston while awaiting extradition to Lexington County.
Sheriff Metts asks anyone with information concerning the activities of Benitez, Carillo and Teran in Lexington County prior to Ramos' murder to call the Lexington County Sheriff's Department at (803) 785-8230 or CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC. Citizens also can provide information anonymously by accessing the Crime Tip link on the Sheriff's Department web site (www.lexingtonsheriff.com).
The ICE investigation leading to these arrests is part of Operation Community Shield, a comprehensive initiative launched by ICE in 2005 to disrupt and dismantle transnational street gangs. Under Operation Community Shield, ICE partners with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to target these violent organizations and their members for arrest, prosecution, and, where applicable, deportation. Since 2005, ICE has arrested more than 11,400 gang members and associates from 890 different gangs as part of Operation Community Shield. Of those arrested, 145 were gang leaders. To date, 3,997 have been charged criminally, and 7,109 have been charged with immigration violations and processed for removal. More information on Operation Community Shield is available at: www.ice.gov.
The public is encouraged to report suspicious activity by calling ICE's toll-free hotline at: 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock.