25 Members of the MS-13 Street Gang Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges
Charges Include Nine Murders in Nassau, Suffolk, and Queens Counties Between May 2008 and March 2010
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, Lawrence W. Mulvey, Commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department, and Richard Dormer, Commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department, today announced the unsealing of a 70-count third superseding indictment charging 25 members and associates of La Mara Salvatrucha street gang (“MS-13”), with murder, assault with dangerous weapons, witness tampering and retaliation, extortion, narcotics trafficking, firearms offenses, obstruction of justice, and related crimes.1 The defendants, who are all in custody, will be arraigned next week before United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco, at the United States Courthouse, 100 Federal Plaza, Central Islip, New York.
This indictment adds five MS-13 members and 31 additional counts, including charges relating to five murders in Nassau and Suffolk Counties:
(1) Adalberto Ariel Guzman, Rene Mendez Mejia, and Heriberto Martinez are charged in connection with the execution-style murders of Vanessa Argueta, a 19- year-old woman, and her 2-year-old son, Diego Torres, in Central Islip, New York, on February 5, 2010. The bodies of Argueta and Torres were found in a secluded wooded area in Central Islip – Argueta had been shot in the head and chest, and Torres had been shot twice in the head.
(2) David Valle and Yonis Acosta-Yanes are charged in connection with the May 5, 2008, murder of Santos Castillo-Martinez in front of 267 Washington Avenue, Hempstead, New York.
(3) Valle and Louis Ruiz are charged in connection with the October 22, 2009, murder of Jairo Vasquez in the vicinity of 67 Meadow Street in Garden City, New York.
(4) Franklin Villatoro and Yobany Calderon are charged in connection with the December 12, 2009, murder of 16-year-old Erick Avalos outside the Kennedy Chicken restaurant at 692 Fulton Street, Hempstead, New York.
The indictment announced today also:
(1) Adds charges relating to attempted murders, assaults with dangerous weapons, and conspiracies to murder or assault rival gang members.
(2) Charges David Valle, Elenilson Ortiz, Louis Ruiz, and Franklin Villatoro with attempting to extort money, drugs, and commissary items from other inmates at the Nassau County Correctional Center while incarcerated.
(3) Charges Francisco Ramos with conspiring to murder three individuals he believed were going to testify against him and his co-defendants in connection with a series of assaults that took place on September 14, 2008, at the Antojitos Salvadoreno Bar in Hempstead, New York.
The prior indictments in this case charged MS-13 members and associates with four other murders: the May 26, 2009, murder of Dexter Acheampong in Central Islip, New York, the February 17, 2010, murder of David Sandler in Brentwood, New York, the March 6, 2010, murder of Nestor Moreno in Hempstead, New York, and the March 17, 2010, murder of Mario Alberto Canton Quijada in Far Rockaway, New York, and a series of violent crimes, including attempted murders, conspiracies to murder rival gang members, and assaults that left a number of victims seriously injured, and in one case dead, in Nassau, Suffolk, and Queens Counties since 2008.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of at least 20 years, and up to life, in prison. The defendants charged with the murders each face mandatory life in prison, or the death penalty.
This superseding indictment is the latest in a series of indictments by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York prosecuting members of the MS-13, 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, the MS-13 is the largest street gang on Long Island. Over the past decade, more than 120 MS-13 members, including the leaders of a number of the MS-13 cliques on Long Island, have been arrested and convicted on federal felony charges in this district, including federal racketeering and murder charges. The prosecutions are the result of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, comprising agents and officers of the FBI, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Police Department, Hempstead Village Police Department, New York State Police, and United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations.
“The crimes alleged in this indictment demonstrate the ruthless violence the MS-13 street gang has unleashed on the neighborhoods of Long Island,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We will continue to respond to the MS-13’s brutal violence with unwavering investigation and prosecution. If gang members commit violent crimes on Long Island, they will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to each of the law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices for their assistance in this case.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Fedarcyk stated, “The heinous crimes outlined in this indictment graphically demonstrate that notoriously violent gangs like MS-13 place little value on human life. As alleged, these defendants stopped at nothing to enforce discipline, silence witnesses or eliminate rivals, and in the process terrorized several Long Island communities and their law-abiding residents. The charges brought today are the culmination of years of work by the Long Island Gang Task Force, and would not have been possible without the commitment of the Nassau and Suffolk County Police Departments.”
Nassau County Police Commissioner Mulvey stated, “I am proud of the dedication and cooperation that has been displayed by federal, state, and local law enforcement. We cannot allow violent gangs to torment and victimize our communities. Through these indictments we will begin the process of holding the defendants accountable for their alleged criminal acts.”
“More than two dozen alleged violent gang members are off the streets of Long Island thanks to the cooperative effort between federal and local law enforcement agencies,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Dormer. “Those arrested have been taken out of our communities and will have to answer for the heinous crimes charged in the indictment. I would like to thank the FBI, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy for their commitment to strong law enforcement and their support throughout the investigation and prosecution of these defendants.”
Nassau County Sheriff Michael Sposato stated, “This indictment represents the mutual cooperation and joint efforts on the part of all of the member agencies of this Task Force. Further, it demonstrates that the criminal activities alleged in the indictment will not be tolerated even when such criminal activities are committed while the defendants are incarcerated in a correctional facility. We are very pleased with the outcome of this investigation and the clear message that it sends to the MS-13 street gang.”
“This crackdown on transnational gangs demonstrates law enforcement’s commitment to stopping the escalating violence linked to gang activity,” said James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York. “Removing alleged gang members from the streets will ensure that they are no longer in a position to wreak havoc in our neighborhoods and threaten the public’s safety.”
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice stated, “Street gangs like MS-13 operate through ruthless violence and fear, but today’s indictments prove that we in law enforcement will not be intimidated. We will continue to work together to protect Long Island’s communities and ensure that those who commit violent crimes on our streets will be brought to justice.”
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota stated, “Our collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s office and other federal law enforcement agencies investigating the alleged criminal activities of the MS-13 street gang in Suffolk County has proven again to be a successful alliance. This indictment illustrates United States Attorney Lynch’s leadership and commitment to this strategy.”
Hempstead Village Police Chief Joseph Wing stated, “The violence MS-13 commits throughout many communities on Long Island must stop. This indictment will bring justice to the victims and send a clear message that the street gang’s alleged criminal acts will not be tolerated. Hempstead Police, working with county, state, and federal agencies creates the force multiplier that is essential in the war on violent gangs. We stand committed in the effort to maintain peace in our Village.”
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham and Raymond A. Tierney.
YONIS ACOSTA-YANES (a/k/a “Brujita”)
ERICK ALVARADO (a/k/a “Gato Seco”)
ROGER ALVARADO (a/k/a “Michichi”)
JEREMIAS EXEQUIEL AMAYA (a/k/a “Payaso”)
WILBER AYALA-ARDON (a/k/a “Pajaro” and “Piolin”)
YOBANY CALDERON (a/k/a “Tego”)
VIDAL ESPINAL (a/k/a “Demente”)
ADALBERTO ARIEL GUZMAN (a/k/a “Gringo”)
MARIO ALPHONSO HERRERA-UMANZOR (a/k/a “Perdido”)
CESAR LANDAVERDE (a/k/a “Flaco” and “Rebelde”)
CARLOS MARTINEZ (a/k/a “Carlito”)
HERIBERTO MARTINEZ (a/k/a “Boxer”)
RENE MENDEZ MEJIA (a/k/a “Zorro”)
DIEGO NINOS (a/k/a “Veneno” and “Mico”)
JOSE GUSTAVO ORELLANA-TORRES (a/k/a “Diablito” and “Gustavo Jefferson Orellana-Torres”)
ELENILSON ORTIZ (a/k/a “Shorty”)
GIOVANNI PRADO (a/k/a “Joker”)
FRANCISCO RAMOS (a/k/a “Cruiser”)
WALTER REYES (a/k/a “Scrappy”)
LOUIS RUIZ (a/k/a “Chucky”)
EMILIO SABALLOS (a/k/a “Caballo”)
JIMMY SOSA (a/k/a “Junior”)
DAVID VALLE (a/k/a “Niño” and “Oreo”)
FRANKLIN E. VILLATORO (a/k/a “Monstro”)
EFRAIN ZUNIGA (a/k/a “Panico”)
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