News and Press Releases

MS-13 Soldier Pleads Guilty to Murdering Mother and Child

June 15, 2011

Nine Other MS-13 Members Plead Guilty to Racketeering Offenses

Earlier today, La Mara Salvatrucha (“MS-13”) member Rene Mendez Mejia, also known as “Zorro,” pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death through use of a firearm in connection with the February 5, 2010, execution-style murders of Vanessa Argueta, a 19-year-old woman, and her two-year-old son, Diego Torres, in Central Islip, New York.1 When sentenced by United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco on October 21, 2011, Mejia faces a maximum term of life imprisonment. In addition, nine of Mejia’s MS-13 co-defendants have pleaded guilty to racketeering offenses over the last several days.

The plea proceedings were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, Thomas C. Krumpter, Acting Commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department, and Richard Dormer, Commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department.

As detailed in previously-filed court documents and Mejia’s plea allocution, the bodies of Argueta and Torres were found in a secluded wooded area; Argueta had been shot in the head and chest, and Torres had been shot twice in the head. Mejia’s fellow MS-13 gang members have also pleaded to the following charges:

• Walter Flores-Reyes, also known as “Scrappy,” pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Assault with Dangerous Weapons in Aid of Racketeering, in connection with a September 14, 2008, attack at Antojitos Bar in Hempstead, New York.

• Diego Ninos, also known as “Veneno,” and Cesar Landaverde, also known as “Rebelde,” pleaded guilty Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering in connection with an October 2008, plot to murder a rival 18th Street gang member in Glen Cove, New York.

• Emilio Saballos, also known as “Caballo,” pleaded guilty to RICO charges, including predicate acts of Witness Tampering and Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine, which took place in Freeport, New York.

• Wilber Ayala-Ardon, also known as “Pajaro,” pleaded guilty to two counts of Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering in connection with two shootings of rival gang members in June and July 2009, both of which took place in Hempstead, New York.

• Giovanni Prado, also known as “Joker,” Erick Alvarado, also known as “Gato Seco,” and Elenilson Ortiz, also known as “Shorty,” pleaded guilty to Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering, Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering, and Witness Tampering, respectively, all stemming from a baseball bat beating outside El Cibao Bar in Freeport, New York in November 2009.

• Francisco Ramos, also known as “Cruiser,” pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering, and two counts of Conspiracy to Commit Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering. During his plea, Ramos admitted, in sum and substance, that after being arrested for the September 14, 2008, assaults at Antojitos Bar, he conspired to kill three witnesses to the assaults. He also admitted to plotting to assault another inmate at the Nassau County Correctional Center, who he believed to be cooperating with law enforcement authorities.

“This young mother and her child lost their lives to senseless gang violence. Street gangs, and their associated wanton violence, have no place in our communities,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We will utilize all available resources to eliminate them and put an end to these senseless and brutal crimes.” Ms. Lynch praised the work of the FBI Long Island Gang Task Force,2 which investigated the case.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham and Raymond A. Tierney.

The Defendants:

ERICK ALVARADO (a/k/a “Gato Seco”)
Age: 29

WILBER AYALA-ARDON (a/k/a “Pajaro” and “Piolin”)
Age: 19

CESAR LANDAVERDE (a/k/a “Flaco” and “Rebelde”)
Age: 23

RENE MENDEZ MEJIA (a/k/a “Zorro”)
Age: 18

DIEGO NINOS (a/k/a “Veneno” and “Mico”)
Age: 23

ELENILSON ORTIZ (a/k/a “Shorty”)
Age: 40

GIOVANNI PRADO (a/k/a “Joker”)
Age: 26

FRANCISCO RAMOS (a/k/a “Cruiser”)
Age: 21

WALTER REYES (a/k/a “Scrappy”)
Age: 21

EMILIO SABALLOS (a/k/a “Caballo”)
Age: 28





1 Adalberto Ariel Guzman, also known as “Gringo,” and Heriberto Martinez, also known as “Boxer,” were also indicted in connection with the Argueta and Torres murders. The charges remain pending against those defendants, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

2 The FBI Long Island Gang Task Force is comprised of law enforcement officers from the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), New York State Police, Nassau County Police Department, Suffolk County Police Department, Hempstead Village Police Department, the Nassau County Department of Corrections, and the Suffolk County Department of Corrections.

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