Criminal Justice News

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

MS-13 Gang Members Indicted in New York for Murder of Four Young Men in Park and Killing of Rival at Deli



Third Superseding Indictment Charges 17 MS-13 Gang Members with a Dozen Murders and Numerous Violent Crimes Committed on Long Island

17 members and associates of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, have been charged with racketeering, 12 murders, attempted murders, assaults, obstruction of justice, arson, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, and related firearms and conspiracy charges relating to the gang’s activities on Long Island, New York. The 59-count, third superseding indictment was unsealed on July 13, in federal court in Central Islip, New York, and includes charges relating to the April 11, murder of four young men in a Central Islip, New York park.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde for the Eastern District of New York; Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office; and Commissioner Timothy D. Sini of the Suffolk County Police Department made the announcement.

“MS-13 is one of the most vicious criminal gangs in this country today,” said Attorney General Sessions.  “As I said when I visited Long Island after these murders took place in April, MS-13’s motto may be ‘kill, rape and control’, but the Department of Justice’s motto is justice for victims and consequences for criminals.  We are committed to bringing violent criminals to justice, and this indictment is the next step in our mission of finding, prosecuting, and eradicating the MS-13 threat.”

“The senseless murders charged in this superseding indictment further demonstrate MS-13’s compulsion to commit horrific acts of violence in communities in our district,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde.  “This Office and the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force will continue to work tirelessly to rid communities, including Central Islip, of MS-13, using every law enforcement resource at our disposal.” Ms. Rohde expressed her grateful appreciation to the members of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Western District of Virginia, and the Western District of North Carolina for assistance provided during the investigation.

“MS-13 is our number one priority on Long Island because much of what they do and how they behave boils down to violence for violence sake,” stated Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney. “The idea that human life means nothing to these gang members should shock the conscience, and we cannot allow this type of thinking to take hold in our youth. We need help in addressing the violence, by the community supporting churches, community programs and activists who can provide a positive alternative to the deadly future MS-13 offers.”

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of excellent police work, and true collaboration between the Suffolk County Police Department, and our federal law enforcement partners,” stated Police Commissioner Sini. “The fact that this case was done in approximately three months is nothing short of outstanding, and I want to thank everyone involved for their critical work. This is another huge blow against MS-13.  It shows that we will not tolerate violence in our communities.  It shows that we will stop at nothing to achieve justice.  And it means that we will prevail.”

Among the counts added in the third superseding indictment are charges against: (1) Alexis Hernandez, 20, of Central Islip, New York; Santos Leonel Ortiz-Flores, 19, of Central Islip, New York; and Omar Antonio Villalta, 22, of Central Islip, New York and Charlottesville, Virginia, in connection with the April 11, murders of Justin Llivicura, Michael Lopez, Jorge Tigre and Jefferson Villalobos in Central Islip; (2) Mario Aguilar-Lopez, 18, of Brentwood, New York; Enrique Portillo, 20, of Central Islip, New York; Alexi Saenz, 22, of Brentwood, New York; Jairo Saenz, 20, of Brentwood, New York; and Jose Suarez, 23, of Central Islip, New York, in connection with the January 30, murder of Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla, a suspected rival gang member, and assault of an innocent bystander at El Campesino Deli in Central Islip; and (3) Jeffrey Amador, 21, of Brentwood, New York; and Ronald Catalan, 26, of Brentwood, New York, in connection with the Oct. 21, 2015 attempted murder of two suspected rival gang members.

As detailed in the third superseding indictment and the government’s detention letter filed on July 13, Hernandez, Ortiz-Flores and Villalta have been charged with the April 11, murders of Llivicura, Lopez, Tigre and Villalobos. According to the allegations in the government’s detention letter, on the evening of the murders, two female associates of MS-13 lured five young men, including the four victims, to a community park in Central Islip at the direction of MS-13 members who believed the victims to be members of a rival gang. More than a dozen MS-13 members and associates, including Hernandez, Ortiz-Flores and Villalta, met in a heavily wooded area behind the park where they discussed the plan to kill the victims, distributed weapons and waited for word from the females that they had arrived.

According to the allegations in the government’s detention letter, when the female MS-13 associates arrived at the park, they led the victims to a wooded area and notified MS-13 members of their location by text message. Hernandez, Ortiz-Flores, Villalta and the other MS-13 members approached and surrounded the victims, and attacked and killed Llivicura, Lopez, Tigre and Villalobos using machetes, knives and wooden clubs. The fifth victim escaped.  According to the allegations in the detention letter, the MS-13 members and associates dragged the victims’ bodies a short distance to a more secluded spot and fled the scene. The victims’ bodies were discovered the following evening, on April 12.

According to the government’s detention letter, Portillo, Alexi Saenz and Jairo Saenz were previously charged with the Sept. 13, 2016, murders of Nisa Mickens and Kyla Cuevas. In the third superseding indictment, they are also charged, along with Aguilar-Lopez and Suarez, in connection with the January 30, murder of Alvarado-Bonilla, a suspected rival gang member, and the assault of an innocent bystander. The government contends in the detention letter that, on the day of the murder, Portillo, a member of the Sailors Locos Salvatruchas Westside (“Sailors”) clique, saw Alvarado-Bonilla, a suspected rival gang member, inside a deli in Central Islip.  Portillo reported this sighting to Alexi Saenz and Jairo Saenz, the leaders of the Sailors clique, who directed Aguilar-Lopez, Suarez and another MS-13 associate to go to the deli and kill Alvarado-Bonilla. The government alleges in the detention letter that, after arriving at the deli, Aguilar-Lopez approached Alvarado-Bonilla from behind and shot him multiple times, killing him, and also striking an employee of the deli.

According to the superseding indictment and the allegations in the detention letter, Amador and Catalan, who was the leader of the Brentwood Locos Salvatruchas (“BLS”) clique of the MS-13, are also charged in connection with the Oct. 21, 2015 attempted murders and assaults of two men that occurred in North Bay Shore, New York. According to the allegations, that evening, MS-13 members had decided to retaliate against suspected members of the rival Latin Kings gang for an assault on an MS-13. Amador, Catalan and other MS-13 members observed a group of people they believed to be Latin Kings, approached the group and fired multiple shots before running back to the car and fleeing the scene. The government contends in the detention letter that two victims were struck but survived their gunshot wounds.

The third superseding indictment also charges members of the Sailors and BLS MS-13 cliques with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana, the proceeds of which the government contends were used to help finance MS-13’s criminal operations.

This superseding indictment is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section targeting members of MS-13, a violent transnational criminal organization. MS-13’s leadership is based in El Salvador and Honduras, but the gang has thousands of members across the United States, comprised primarily of immigrants from Central America. With numerous branches, or “cliques,” MS-13 is the most violent street gang on Long Island. Since 2003, hundreds of MS-13 members, including dozens of clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. A majority of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges for participating in murders, attempted murders and assaults. Since 2010 alone, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 40 murders in the Eastern District of New York, and has convicted dozens of MS-13 leaders and members in connection with those murders. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, comprised of agents and officers of the FBI, Suffolk County Police Department, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, Rockville Centre Police Department, the New York State Police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

On July 13, Aguilar-Lopez, Amador, Catalan, Hernandez and Ortiz-Flores were arraigned before U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bianco at the federal courthouse in Central Islip. Villalta was arraigned in the Western District of Virginia that same day. The remaining defendants were arraigned before Judge Bianco on July 17.

The charges in the superseding indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by the Assistant U.S. Attorneys John J. Durham, Raymond A. Tierney and Paul G. Scotti of the Long Island Criminal Division with assistance from Deputy Chief Douglas Crow and Trial Attorney Francesca Liquori of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.

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