MS-13 Gang Members Convicted on Federal Racketeering Charges Stemming from Long Island Shootings
ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced that a federal jury in Central Islip today returned guilty verdicts convicting MS-13 ("La Mara Salvatrucha") gang members LEDWIN CASTRO, also known as "Hueso," and DAVID VASQUEZ, also known as "Gigante," on 10 felony counts stemming from two drive-by shootings they and fellow MS-13 members carried out on June 18, 2003. The counts of conviction were conspiracy and assault in violation of the federal Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) statute, and related firearms charges. In a separate verdict, the jury found that the MS-13 itself constituted a racketeering enterprise, believed to be the first such finding by a jury nationwide.
The government's evidence at trial established that on the night of June 18, 2003, the defendants and two fellow MS-13 members carried out two drive-by shootings in Hempstead and Freeport, Long Island, seriously wounding three teenagers. The defendants targeted the 15, 16 and 18-year-old victims because they believed them to be members of the rival gangs Salvadorans With Pride ("SWP") and the Bloods. In fact, testimony at trial established that the 15-year-old victim, who was shot in the chest, and the 18-year-old victim, who was shot seven times, were, in fact, innocent bystanders. At the time of the attacks, CASTRO was the leader of the Freeport chapter, or clique, of the MS-13.
In the first shooting, the defendants and their co-conspirators drove a stolen van to the Laundry Palace laundromat on Clinton Avenue in Hempstead where VASQUEZ fired seven shots into a crowd of pedestrians standing in a parking lot, striking the 15-year-old and 16-year-old victims. The defendants chose that location to launch an attack because the area was considered to be controlled by SWP. After returning to Hempstead to re-arm, the defendants and their co-conspirators drove to the One-Stop Deli on Main Street in Freeport where one of the co-conspirators fired seven rounds at a crowd of young men in a parking lot, believing them to be members of the Bloods gang. All seven rounds struck the 18-year-old victim.
The MS-13 is an international gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, with a significant presence on Long Island and in various communities nationwide. Its members have been convicted of murder, assault, robbery, arson, narcotics trafficking and firearms crimes. Much of the group's violent activities are aimed at rival gangs, including the Salvadorans with Pride, the Latin Kings and the Bloods.
"Today's convictions of a leader and member of one of the most notorious gangs in our nation are another significant step toward victory in our battle against gang violence, which has quickly become one of Long Island's most pressing crime problems," stated United States Attorney MAUSKOPF. "Long Island is not a free-fire zone where innocent teenagers can be mistakenly shot in a senseless turf war. We will continue to use all of our resources to dismantle the MS-13 organization and stop the violence that is its signature brand."
Previously, eighteen Long Island members of the MS-13, including two clique leaders, have pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to federal racketeering charges including conspiracy, assault and murder. More than 20 additional Long Island MS-13 members have been convicted at trial or pleaded guilty to non-racketeering federal charges, including robbery, firearms possession and immigration crimes.
These prosecutions are the result of joint efforts by the FBI Gang Task Force, coordinated by the United States Attorney's Office, and comprised of agents and officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, New York State Police, Nassau County Sheriff's Department, and the Nassau County, Hempstead, Freeport and Port Washington Police Departments. The Nassau County District Attorney's Office also provided significant support to these federal prosecutions. Ms. MAUSKOPF thanked each of these agencies for their partnership and their commitment to making our Long Island communities safe from gang violence.
When sentenced by United States District Judge Leonard D. Wexler, the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 years incarceration and a maximum of life. The government's case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Richard Donoghue and Wayne Baker.
206 Jay Street, Freeport, New York 11520
34 Weberfield Ave., Freeport, New York
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