MS-13 Gang Member From Jamaica, Queens Indicted For Murder Of 19-Year-Old Man In Long Island
Defendant And Co-Conspirators Lured Victim From Queens To Long Island And Then Shot Him Because They Believed He Was Cooperating With Law Enforcement
Earlier today, an indictment was unsealed charging the defendant, Byron Lopez, with conspiracy to commit murder in-aid-of racketeering, murder in-aid-of racketeering, obstruction-of-justice murder and firearms offenses.1 If convicted, Lopez will face mandatory life imprisonment. Lopez, who was arrested this morning, was presented for arraignment earlier today at the United States Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York.
The charges and arrest were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York Field Office; James Higgins, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives and Firearms, New York Field Division (ATF); and William J. Bratton, Commissioner, New York City Police Department.
“This Office has a long history of prosecuting and convicting members of the MS-13 gang, which for years has pursued its particularly brutal brand of violence and lawlessness in neighborhoods throughout Queens and Long Island,” stated U.S. Attorney Lynch. “This prosecution, which brings another member of the gang to justice for a murder that disrupted one of our communities earlier this year, is part of our ongoing mission to dismantle MS-13 wherever and whenever it rears its head in this district.” Ms. Lynch thanked the Suffolk County Police Department for its assistance with the investigation.
"Today’s arrest of Byron Lopez, a member of the violent MS-13 street gang who is alleged to have coordinated the murder of a fellow gang member and other violent crimes, is yet another step in the efforts of law enforcement to attack the leadership of MS-13 and put an end to their menacing criminal conduct," said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI. “HSI is proud of its partnerships with law enforcement agencies in Suffolk County, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York that further investigations against violent criminal street gangs that present significant threats to public safety."
As alleged in court documents, Lopez is a member of the Jamaica, Queens chapter of the violent street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as “MS-13.” On February 25, 2014, Lopez and other members of the gang directed the victim, fellow gang member Sidney Valverde, to travel to Long Island under the false pretense that they needed him to assist in gang business there. In fact, Lopez and his co-conspirators planned to kill Valverde because they believed that he was providing information about the gang’s activities to federal law enforcement. After Valverde traveled to Long Island, the conspirators shot him in the back of the head and left his body on Miller Place Beach in Suffolk County, where it was discovered by a beachcomber approximately two weeks later.
The indictment of Lopez is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York targeting members of the MS-13, a violent international street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras. With numerous chapters, or “cliques,” through the United States, MS-13 has a significant presence in Queens and is the largest street gang in Long Island. Since 2003, more than 250 MS-13 members, including dozens of clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. More than 150 of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges. Since 2010 alone, this Office has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 20 murders in the Eastern District of New York, and has convicted more than 35 MS-13 members in connection with those murders.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Darren A. LaVerne and Alixandra E. Smith.
BYRON LOPEZ, also known as “Viruz”
1 The charges contained in the indictments are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.