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Press Release

18th Street Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Conspiracy and Two Murders

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Defendant Recorded Victim Being Stabbed More than 100 Times and Sent the Video to Other Gang Members as a Warning Not to Cooperate with Law Enforcement

Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Yanki Misael Cruz-Mateo, a member of the 18th Street gang, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges in connection with his participation in two murders: the October 25, 2017 murder of 20-year-old Jonathan Figueroa in Saugerties, New York and the February 2, 2018 murder of 20-year-old Oscar Antonio Blanco Hernandez in Queens.  The guilty plea proceeding was held before United States Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara.  When sentenced, Cruz-Mateo faces up to life in prison.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the guilty plea.

“Cruz-Mateo had boasted of his participation in the murders in a horrific video and in text messages, but today’s admission in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn holds him accountable for two savage killings committed for the purpose of instilling fear and promoting gang violence,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “While the defendant’s guilty plea cannot bring back the two lives senselessly taken or undo the cruelty of his actions, it is my hope that it will bring a measure of closure to his victims’ families.” 

United States Attorney Peace also expressed his appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office, the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Police, the Kingston Police Department, and the New York City Police Department for their assistance during the investigation.

According to court filings, proceedings, and statements made during today’s guilty plea proceeding, Cruz-Mateo was a member of the Queens-based Shatto Park Locos Sureños sect of 18th Street.  He committed the following crimes in order to maintain and increase his membership and status in the gang:

October 25, 2017 Murder of Jonathan Figueroa

In the late evening of October 24, 2017, Cruz-Mateo lured and travelled with Figueroa from Queens to Kingston, New York, planning to murder him because 18th Street members suspected he was an informant for law enforcement.  Upon their arrival in Kingston, they were met by other 18th Street members and associates who, into the early morning hours of October 25, 2017, brought Figueroa to Turkey Point State Forest, stabbed him to death, and buried him in a makeshift grave.  Cruz-Mateo ordered the murder to be video-recorded—capturing multiple 18th Street members and associates repeatedly stabbing Figueroa, slashing his throat, amputating his ear, and dragging his body.  In the video, Cruz-Mateo stated that Figueroa was being murdered for “being a rat.”  Cruz-Mateo then sent the video to other 18th Street members as a warning not to disrespect the gang or cooperate with law enforcement.  Figueroa’s body was discovered in February 2018 by the FBI, along with state and local law enforcement authorities, in a five-foot deep grave.  The victim sustained more than 100 stab wounds including at least one stab wound to the head that appears to have fractured his skull and a slash to his throat that ruptured his trachea. 

February 2, 2018 Murder of Oscar Antonio Blanco Hernandez

On February 2, 2018, Cruz-Mateo shot and killed Blanco Hernandez in Queens because 18th Street gang members suspected him of being a member of 18th Street’s principal rival, La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13 gang.  Blanco Hernandez’s body was discovered on a residential street in the Jamaica Hills section of Queens.  He had been shot three times in the torso and head.  Cruz-Mateo fled the area and returned upstate to Kingston.  He was arrested by the FBI following a statewide manhunt.

Co-defendant Israel Mediola Flores previously pleaded guilty to Figueroa’s murder and was sentenced in June 2023 to 425 months in prison.  Co-defendants Yoni Alexander Sierra, Jose Jimenez Chacon, and Carolina Cruz previously pleaded guilty to Blanco Hernandez’s murder and are currently awaiting sentencing.

Today’s conviction is the latest in a series of recent convictions in this case of members and associates of 18th Street, a well-known and well-established international criminal organization and violent street gang with members and associates residing throughout New York State including Queens and Long Island, and elsewhere throughout the United States including Houston, Texas. 

This case is part of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the FBI. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan P. Lax, Erin Reid and Margaret Schierberl are in charge of the prosecution, with the assistance of Paralegal Specialist Tareva Torres.

The Defendant:

YANKI MISAEL CRUZ-MATEO (also known as “Yenki Misael Cruz Mateo,” “Yankee Mateo,” “Doggy” and “Wino”)
Age: 25
, New York

Co-Defendants Previously Convicted:

ISRAEL MEDIOLA FLORES (also known as “Chapito” and “Sinaloa”)
Age: 29
, New York

YONI ALEXANDER SIERRA (also known as “Arca,” “Arc Angel” and “Wasson”)
Age: 25
, New York

JOSE JIMENEZ CHACON (also known as “Little One”)
Age: 25
New Brunswick
, New Jersey

CAROLINA CRUZ (also known as “La Fiera”)
Age: 30
Elizabeth, New Jersey


Co-Defendants Awaiting Trial:

WALTER FERNANDO ALFARO PINED (also known as “Clever”)
Age: 44
, Texas

JOSE DOUGLAS CASTELLANO (also known as “Chino”)
Age: 25
, New York

JUNIOR ZELAYA-CANALES (also known as “Terco”)
Age: 27
, New York

ERIC CHAVEZ (also known as “Lunatico”)
Age: 25
, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-139 (S-7) (LDH)


John Marzulli
Danielle Blustein Hass                            
United States Attorney’s Office
(718) 254-6323

Updated March 27, 2024

Violent Crime