News and Press Releases

MS-13 Street Gang Member Sentenced to Forty Years' Imprisonment for Murder

August 11, 2008

Earlier today, JOHNNY A. RODAS, also known as “Araña,” a member of the La Mara Salvatrucha (“MS-13”) street gang on Long Island, was sentenced to forty years’ imprisonment for the February 23, 2003, murder of 18-year-old Jaime Figueroa in Freeport, New York. The sentence was imposed pursuant to RODAS’s plea agreement with the government. The proceeding was held before Senior United States District Judge Leonard D. Wexler at the United States Courthouse in Central Islip, New York.

According to RODAS’s plea allocution and documents previously filed in the case, Figueroa and two friends were traveling in a vehicle that was stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of Sunrise Highway and North Ocean Avenue in Freeport at approximately 7:50 p.m. on February 23, 2003. RODAS and fellow MS-13 member Mario Jimenez, also known as “Gato,” both of whom had just left an MS-13 gang meeting, stopped alongside the vehicle and, assuming that Figueroa and his associates were members of the rival Salvadorans With Pride (“SWP”) gang, RODAS fired three bullets from a .38 caliber revolver into the vehicle. One bullet struck Figueroa in the head, killing him instantly. A second bullet injured the driver of Figueroa’s vehicle. In post-arrest statements and during his guilty plea, RODAS acknowledged that he carried out the attack in furtherance of the MS-13’s violent rivalry with the SWP. The government’s investigation revealed that neither Figueroa nor his associates were members of any street gang. In an earlier proceeding, Mario Jimenez was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for his role in the shooting.

“We will continue to protect our communities through vigorous prosecutions of those who engage in violence on behalf of the MS-13 and other gangs,” stated United States Attorney Benton J.Campbell. Mr. Campbell thanked the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office for its cooperation and assistance in this case.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Mark J. Mershon stated, “Jaime Figueroa was murdered merely because Johnny Rodas believed (incorrectly) he was a member of a rival gang. That kind of wanton lawlessness and disregard for human life cannot be tolerated in a country of laws. The FBI is committed to making all of our neighborhoods safe and secure.”

Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey stated, “I have made gang and gun suppression one of my top priorities since being appointed police commissioner, and this significant prison sentence sends a clear message that the criminal justice system will not tolerate the violence associated with gang activity in our neighborhoods. The law enforcement community will continue to vigorously apprehend and prosecute these gang members who prey upon the good and lawful people of Nassau County.”

The MS-13 is a violent international street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. With several chapters, which members refer to as “cliques,” MS-13 is the largest street gang on Long Island. Over the past three years, more than 50 members of the MS-13, including nine clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in this district. Two of those defendants have been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for murder, one defendant was sentenced to 63 years’ imprisonment for assault, one defendant was sentenced to 60 years’ imprisonment for assault, and eight defendants received sentences of 10 years or more. Five additional MS-13 defendants are awaiting sentencing on murder convictions.

The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Richard P. Donoghue and James McGovern.

The Defendant:

JOHNNY A. RODAS, also known as “Araña,”
Age: 26

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