A former fugitive, who was arrested earlier this month in Virginia, made his initial appearance in federal court in Newark Aug. 23, for a gang-related murder.
He was apprehended by the FBI. Officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) provided critical assistance leading up to his capture.
In September 2013, Walter Yovany-Gomez, 33, aka “Cholo,” was indicted by a Newark grand jury for murder in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in an indictment that named 14 alleged members of Plainfield Locos Salvatrucha (PLS), a New Jersey branch of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) transnational gang.
The indictment followed an investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). At the time of the federal indictment, Yovany-Gomez was a fugitive.
In April 2017, the FBI placed Yovany-Gomez on its Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List.
(Violent gang member Walter Yovany Gomez was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list on April 12, 2017. Courtesy of the FBI and YouTube)
On August 12, 2017, he was arrested without incident in Woodbridge, Virginia, based on tips received from the public.
Between 2014 and 2016, all 13 of the other co-defendants charged in the September 2013 federal indictment were convicted, including eight MS-13 members who were convicted following a 16-week trial that ended in June 2016.
Yovany-Gomez is charged in connection with the murder of Julio Matute.
According to the indictment and statements made in court:
On the morning of May 8, 2011, Matute was allegedly murdered by Yovany-Gomez and a conspirator, Cruz Flores, aka “Bruja.”
Gomez and Flores allegedly struck Matute in the head with a baseball bat, sliced his throat, and stabbed him in the back 17 times with a screwdriver, allegedly because Matute was suspected of socializing with a rival gang.
Flores was found guilty of the murder during the trial described above.
Yovany-Gomez is charged with murder in aid of racketeering, which is punishable by a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
The charge is a death penalty-eligible offense subject to a decision by the U.S. Attorney General.
The acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher; and deportation officers of ERO, under the direction Newark ERO Field Office Director John Tsoukaris.
He also thanked the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Grace Park, for long, close collaboration on the case.
The FBI Washington Field Office’s Violent Crimes Task Force, the Fairfax County Police Department’s Gang Unit, and the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force coordinated the local search and arrest of Yovany-Gomez.
He also acknowledged the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Virginia and the District of Maryland for their assistance in the ongoing investigation.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are only allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.