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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Long Island MS-13 Gang Member Pleads Guilty to 2019 Murder of 15-Year-Old in Central Islip

Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Jose Omar Sorto Portillo, a member of the Leeward Locos Salvatruchas clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, pleaded guilty to murder in aid of racketeering for his participation in the August 7, 2019 murder of 15-year-old Jasson Medrano-Molina.  The proceeding was held before United States Circuit Judge Joseph F. Bianco.  

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), Stuart Cameron, Acting Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), and Timothy Sini, Suffolk County District Attorney, announced the guilty plea.

“With today’s guilty plea, the defendant admitted to shooting a 15-year-old alleged rival gang member to death at close range in a meaningless effort to boost his status as an MS-13 gang member,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “This Office, in partnership with the Long Island Gang Task Force, will continue to work tirelessly to prevent these senseless killings and eliminate gang violence that is endangering our communities.”

“MS-13 will stop at nothing in their reign of terror, including this senseless murder of a teenager,” stated SCPD Commissioner Cameron. “I am proud of the efforts of the Suffolk County Police Department and its law enforcement partners to bring these violent individuals to justice and cripple this transnational criminal organization.”

“This senseless murder was characteristic of MS-13’s M.O., which is to commit acts of violence against anyone perceived as an enemy, even when that person is only a 15-year-old child,” stated District Attorney Sini. “This is the latest of many convictions that hold these dangerous gang members responsible for the death they’ve caused. It has been a major focus of my Office to decimate MS-13’s presence on Long Island, and we’ve been very successful in those efforts by working in close collaboration with our federal partners in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and cross-designating assistant district attorneys to prosecute gang members together. We will continue to keep the pressure on to prevent gang violence in our communities and keep the public safe.”

According to court filings and statements by the defendant at the guilty plea proceeding, in July and August 2019, the defendant and other MS-13 members and associates were seeking to attack and kill individuals whom they believed were rival gang members in order to elevate their own positions in the gang.  The defendant and his co-conspirators targeted several individuals, including the victim.  In the early morning hours of August 7, 2019, the defendant and two co-conspirators lured Medrano-Molina and two other individuals to a wooded area in Central Islip.  The defendant, who was armed with a .40 caliber handgun, was waiting in the wooded area for an MS-13 associate to lead the victim and other individuals to the pre-determined location.  When the victim arrived, the defendant shot him multiple times at close range.  Medrano-Molina died at the scene.  The other two individuals ran and were able to escape unharmed. 

Portillo is now 18 years-old and was 16 years-old at the time of the Medrano-Molina murder.  He was initially was charged by a complaint on August 14, 2019, and, thereafter, a juvenile information on September 13, 2019, both of which were filed under seal in the Eastern District of New York.  Prior to pleading guilty, Portillo consented to being transferred to adult status in the case. 

Today’s conviction is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York targeting members of the MS-13, a violent, transnational criminal organization.  The MS-13’s leadership is based in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, but the gang has thousands of members across the United States.  With numerous branches, or “cliques,” the MS-13 is the most violent criminal organization on Long Island.  Since 2003, hundreds of MS-13 members, including dozens of clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York.  A majority of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges for participating in murders, attempted murders and assaults.  Since 2010, this Office has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 60 murders in the Eastern District of New York, and has convicted dozens of MS-13 leaders and members in connection with those murders.  These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, which is comprised of agents and officers of the FBI, SCPD, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation Office, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, the New York State Police, the Hempstead Police Department, the Rockville Centre Police Department and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. 

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Paul G. Scotti, Justina L. Geraci, Megan E. Farrell, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Kathleen Kearon are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendant:

JOSE OMAR SORTO PORTILLO (also known as “Duende”)
Age: 18 
Central Islip, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 19-CR-423 (S-1)(JFB)

 

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Contact: 
John Marzulli United States Attorney’s Office (718) 254-6323
Updated October 20, 2021