GAITHERSBURG, Md. (7News) — A known MS-13 gang member lured a 15-year-old girl into an apartment where he would have raped her if not for FaceTime, Montgomery County Maryland Police allege in court filings.
Erick Benitez-Amaya, 24, of Grantchester Place in Gaithersburg, is currently facing charges of attempted second-degree rape, third-degree sex offense, and second-degree assault.
Shortly before midnight on May 8, Montgomery County patrol officers were dispatched to a sexual assault call in Gaithersburg. As units rolled up, the alleged victim and a witness pointed at Benitez-Amay who was standing nearby. The 24-year-old suspect ran away, prompting uniformed officers to chase after him, ultimately catching up, according to police
A detective with Montgomery County's Child Exploitation Unit interviewed the teenage girl. Police say she explained that four men, including Benitez-Amaya, approached her near the community pool and struck up a conversation. That conversation resulted in the girl being led to a second-story apartment where Benitez-Amaya allegedly took the girl to a bedroom.
That's where police say Benitez-Amaya tried to take off the girl's clothes before taking off his pants and touching himself in front of her. He then pinned her to a bed.
She was screaming and unable to get away from the defendant," police added, noting that Benitez-Amaya referred to the victim as "baby" during the sexual assault. "The defendant then grabbed a condom. The victim called a friend utilizing FaceTime and stated that she was being held against her will.
That friend contacted another person who rushed to the apartment where they reportedly heard the girl screaming, "let me go!" A short while later, the girl managed to escape from the apartment.
Police say Benitez-Amaya agreed to provide a statement after being read his Miranda rights. Benitez-Amaya explained he met the girl near the pool and that she agreed to return to his mother's apartment. While at the apartment, the two hugged, but there was no additional physical contact, Benitez-Amaya claimed.
According to law enforcement records, Benitez-Amaya is a known member of the street gang MS-13. He also has a criminal record in Maryland.
In January 2018, Montgomery County Police charged Benitez-Amaya, then 20, with consuming alcohol in a public place. A judge fined him $72 and placed him on probation.
In May 2020, Montgomery County Police charged Benitez-Amaya with second-degree assault. Benitez-Amaya spent 60 days in jail before pleading guilty in August 2020 and getting released. A judge placed Benitez-Amaya on probation through August of this year.
On May 8 of this year — three months before that probation was set to expire — Benitez-Amaya is said to have lured the teen into his mother's apartment and attempted to rape her. Citing the severity of the allegations, the court ordered Benitez-Amaya remain in custody on a no-bond status.
Court records indicate Benitez-Amaya is a native of El Salvador and had been living with his aunt in Gaithersburg. He worked as a carpenter, earning around $140 per day, court documents further note.
Reached by telephone Wednesday, defense attorney Vernon Brownlee stated his client denies all allegations in the criminal case. A three-day jury trial is scheduled for late November in Montgomery County Circuit Court. The 24-year-old defendant faces up to 40 years in prison.