Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that LEONIDES SIERRA, a/k/a “Junito” – the former national leader of the “Trinitarios,” a violent street and prison gang comprising primarily individuals of Dominican descent – was sentenced yesterday in Manhattan federal court to 19 years in prison for his role as the leader of a massive, multi-year racketeering conspiracy. Sierra is currently serving 221/2 years to life in prison in New York State as a result of his 1989 conviction of intentional murder. Sierra’s federal sentence will run consecutively to the New York State term of imprisonment.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “When Sierra created the Trinitarios Gang on Rikers Island in 1992, a dangerous and bloodthirsty organization was born, responsible for overwhelming violence both on the streets of New York and other cities, and inside the prison system. With Sierra’s conviction, the Trinitarios Gang lost its founder and leader. Sierra’s conviction and sentence are capstones to this Office’s five-year effort to dismantle the Trinitarios. The sentence imposed ensures that Sierra will not see the light of day for many years to come. It should also serve to remind members and leaders of other violent gangs that we will continue to work to bring them to justice.”
In imposing sentence, United States District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer told the defendant: “Instead of putting up a stop sign, you gave the Trinitarios a green light to commit violence by your actions. Your actions sent the message to these gang members that retribution, violence, and hits are OK.” Judge Engelmayer told Sierra that he had “no right to decide who lived or who died,” and that his actions were “wrong, destructive to society, and to the Dominican community.”
According to the Indictment, and other documents filed in the case, as well as statements made during the sentencing proceedings:
SIERRA, with two others, created the Trinitarios Gang on Rikers Island in 1992, in order to protect prison inmates of Dominican descent from other competing violent gang members. The Trinitarios quickly morphed into a violent organization both in the prison system and on the streets, as its members began to be released from prison and continued their membership. SIERRA managed and led the Trinitarios while he was an inmate at various New York State prisons, including, at the time of his arrest in this case, Attica Correctional Facility. SIERRA ordered numerous acts of violence (referred to as “green lights” in the gang’s parlance) against other inmates in the New York State prison system, and, in connection with his guilty plea in this case, also admitted that in 2011, he conspired to murder another member of the Trinitarios Gang who was at liberty in the community. Sierra targeted this victim because the victim refused to acknowledge Sierra as the gang’s Supreme Leader. Sierra and his co-conspirators were arrested in this case before their plan could come to fruition.
In his capacity as the gang’s leader, Sierra also ordered the establishment of a Central Committee, which was responsible for conveying Sierra’s orders and messages to the gang’s top
leadership on the street, among other things. During the time Sierra served as the gang’s national leader, Trinitarios members operating in the Bronx and Manhattan were responsible for
numerous homicides and non-fatal shootings, targeting both other members of the Trinitarios and members of rival gangs. Specifically, this Office has charged members and associates of the Bronx Trinitarios Gang with committing nine homicides between 2005 and 2010, and members and associates of the Manhattan Trinitarios Gang with committing one homicide in 2006.
Since 2009, as part of “Operation Patria” and “Operation Green Haze,” this Office has charged at least 147 members and associates of the Trinitarios Gang.
Mr. Bharara praised the work of the New York City Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Services.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nola B. Heller, Micah W.J. Smith, Jessica Ortiz, Sarah Krissoff, Timothy D. Sini, Ryan Poscablo, and Rachel Maimin are in charge of the prosecution.