MS-13 Members Receive Significant Sentences for Gang Violence after Retrials
Leader of MS-13 Street Gang Sentenced to More Than 60 Years’ Imprisonment for Assault
MS-13 Street Gang Member Sentenced to Life Imprisonment for Murder
Earlier today, United States District Judge Arthur D. Spatt sentenced Ledwin Castro, also known as “Hueso,” a leader in the La Mara Salvatrucha (“MS-13”) street gang, to more than 60 years’ incarceration pursuant to his racketeering convictions for conspiracy, assault, and the illegal use of firearms, all in connection with two drive-by shootings carried out by Castro and three fellow MS-13 members in Hempstead and Freeport, New York, on June 18, 2003. Castro was convicted on all counts in the indictment on October 14, 2009, following a three-week re-trial. On September 25, 2009, while the Castro trial was underway, Judge Spatt sentenced Long Island MS-13 member Josue Otoniel Rubi-Gonzalez, also known as “Bam Bam,” to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the June 30, 2003, murder of 22-year-old Jesus Valentin in Central Islip, New York. Rubi-Gonzalez was convicted on all counts in the indictment on July 29, 2009, following a three-week re-trial.
The sentences were announced by Benton J. Campbell, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Joseph M. Demarest, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, Lawrence W. Mulvey, Nassau County Police Commissioner, and Richard Dormer, Suffolk County Police Commissioner.
As established at the Castro re-trial, at the time of the June 18, 2003 shootings, Castro was the leader of the MS-13 Freeport Chapter, or “clique.” On the night of June 18, Castro and fellow MS-13 members from the Freeport and Hempstead cliques, traveling in a stolen vehicle, fired seven bullets into a group of teenagers standing in a Hempstead laundromat parking lot, seriously wounding a 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy. After obtaining additional ammunition, Castro and his co-conspirators then traveled to Freeport, where they shot a 19-year-old man seven times because, as with the earlier victims, they assumed that he was a member of a rival gang.
As established at the Rubi-Gonzalez re-trial, on the afternoon of June 30, 2003, Rubi-Gonzalez and two fellow MS-13 members murdered 22-year-old Jesus Valentin in Central Islip, New York, because they mistakenly believed that Valentin was a member of the Latin Kings, a rival street gang, in part because he was wearing a yellow shirt, a color frequently worn by Latin Kings. After luring Valentin into a wooded area off Lowell Avenue in Central Islip, Rubi-Gonzalez and his co-conspirators brutally beat him with a metal fire extinguisher and a piece of lumber before Rubi-Gonzalez fatally stabbed the victim with a pocket knife. Rubi-Gonzalez and his fellow gang members then hid the victim’s body in a drain pipe, where it was not discovered until November 15, 2003.
Both Castro and Rubi-Gonzalez were previously convicted on the same charges following trial, but those convictions were overturned on appeal in October 2008 and February 2009, respectively, after an appellate court determined that the government’s case included expert testimony that improperly related to acts of violence and other crimes committed by members of the MS-13. Following remand of the Castro case, Castro’s lead co-defendant, Freeport MS-13 member David Vasquez, also known as “Gigante,” pleaded guilty to two counts of using a firearm to commit assault in furtherance of a racketeering activity, and was sentenced by Judge Spatt to 30 years’ incarceration on October 2, 2009.
“These sentences send a clear message to all gang members that the Department of Justice and this Office will not rest until the scourge of gang violence is eliminated from our communities,” stated United States Attorney Campbell. “Those who chose to commit violent crimes on behalf of a gang should be prepared to spend the rest of their lives in prison.” Mr. Campbell praised the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force for its work on the cases.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Demarest stated, “Gang violence is not confined to large cities, and its victims are not only other gang members. Innocent people get hurt, either inadvertently or when they’re mistakenly pegged as rival gang members. Working with our law enforcement partners on Long Island, the FBI will continue to press hard to rein in violent gangs like MS-13 to protect everyone from their cold-blooded conduct.”
Nassau County Police Commissioner Mulvey stated, “Let those inclined to perpetrate gang violence beware. Our resolve to apprehend and prosecute these offenders will not diminish. Local, state, and federal law enforcement will continue to show a united front and seek the maximum penalties.”
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Dormer stated, “These cases not only demonstrate a determined effort by law enforcement to curb gang violence, but also law enforcement’s ability to garner information and support from communities impacted by gang violence. We would like to commend the Department of Justice on their fine work in bringing these dangerous gang members to justice.”
The MS-13 is a violent international street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, many of whom are in the United States illegally. With numerous cliques, MS-13 is the largest street gang on Long Island. Since 2002, more than 120 MS-13 members, including more that a dozen clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. More than 50 of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges. Seventeen of those defendants have received sentences of 10 years or more. More than a dozen MS-13 defendants are awaiting sentencing on murder convictions in this district.
The Castro and Rubi-Gonzalez cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Richard P. Donoghue and John J. Durham.
LEDWIN CASTRO, also known as “Hueso”
DAVID VASQUEZ, also known as “Gigante”
JOSUE OTONIEL RUBI-GONZALEZ, also known as “Bam Bam”
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