Ñetas Gang Members Receive Life Imprisonment for Murder of Innocent Civilian
Earlier today, United States District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein sentenced Amadeo Rodriguez and Christopher Moore, members of the Ñetas street gang, to life imprisonment pursuant to their racketeering convictions for murder, conspiracy, assault, and the illegal use of firearms in connection with the 2001 New Year’s Eve murder of Giovanni Aguilar. Rodriguez and Moore received additional, consecutive sentences of 70 years and 45 years of incarceration, respectively, as a result of their convictions for conspiracy to commit murder and the discharge of firearms. Rodriguez and Moore were convicted of all counts in the indictment on June 18, 2008, following a five-week jury trial.
The sentences were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Kenneth Nelson, Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and Lawrence W. Mulvey, Nassau County Police Commissioner.
As established at trial, the Ñetas gang originated in approximately 1970 in a prison in Puerto Rico and thereafter grew to include inmates in New Jersey and New York. As Ñetas inmates were released from prison, they formed local chapters and engaged in criminal activities, including narcotics distribution and violent assaults on, and murders of, rival gang members. Each Ñetas chapter’s hierarchical leadership structure included a president, vice president, treasurer, disciplinarian, and a coordinator responsible for organizing monthly meetings. Prospective Ñetas members were required to serve a probationary period before being formally “blessed in” to membership at a “universal” meeting of the chapters held on March 30th of each year. Members often wore red, white, and black to indicate their gang affiliation, used hand signals to identify themselves to other members as well as to rival gangs, and frequently bore tattoos that read, among other things, “N.D.C.,” for Ñeta de Corazon, meaning “Ñeta from the heart.” Each member was required to follow a set of rules, which obligated him or her to obtain a “green light” before committing an act of violence and to report suspected government informants to gang leaders. Gang members who violated rules were disciplined using ritualized beatings administered by the chapter’s disciplinarian, typically at a monthly meeting.
Historically, the Freeport, New York, chapter of the Ñetas and MS-13 street gang members were rivals. The already violent conflict between the rival gangs escalated after the notorious murder of Damien Corrente by MS-13 gang members on January 14, 1999. Corrente was mistakenly believed to be a Ñetas member by his MS-13 assailants. As the government’s evidence established at trial:
The Giovanni Aguilar Homicide. On January 1, 2001, Rodriguez and Moore murdered 20- year-old Giovanni Aguilar at a residence on Jay Street in Freeport, New York. Aguilar, a landscaper, was killed because the defendants mistakenly believed that he was a member of the MS-13 street gang and in retaliation for the Corrente murder. Rodriguez shot Aguilar in the face and chest, and Moore fired six times into a residence filled with New Year’s Eve celebrants -- including MS-13 gang members -- narrowly missing a 10-year-old child.
Assault at the Freeport Industrial Area. On July 18, 2000, Rodriguez and other Ñetas gang members beat and stabbed two men at an industrial area in Freeport, New York. The attack was retribution for an earlier altercation between the Ñetas and the victims. Rodriguez and the others, with faces masked, attacked the victims with broken sticks and bottles. One victim was stabbed in the leg while the second suffered lacerations of the neck.
Sunrise Highway Shooting. On April 23, 2003, Rodriguez, a passenger in a car driven by another gang member on Sunrise Highway in Bellmore, New York, opened fire at a car filled with members of the MS-13 gang, narrowly missing them and several innocent bystanders.
“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 Lynch. “Those who chose to commit violent crimes on behalf of a gang should be prepared to spend the rest of their lives in prison.” Ms. Lynch praised the ATF and the Nassau County Police for their work on the case.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Lara Treinis
Gatz and Grace M. Cucchissi.
The Department of Justice believes that it is important to keep victims/witnesses of federal crime informed of court proceedings and what services may be available to assist you.