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Press Release

Long Island MS-13 Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Two Murders, An Attempted Murder, and Drug Conspiracy Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York

Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Jonathan Hernandez, a member of the Sailors Locos Salvatruchas Westside (Sailors) clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in connection with his participation in the January 28, 2016 murder of Michael Johnson, the April 29, 2016 murder of Oscar Acosta, an attempted murder on August 10, 2016, and a conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana.  The proceeding was held before United States Magistrate Judge Anne Y. Shields.  

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), and Rodney K. Harrison, Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), announced the guilty plea.

“In service to a violent gang and without regard for human life, the defendant and his MS-13 cohorts murdered two people, attempted to murder a third victim, and distributed dangerous narcotics,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “With today’s guilty plea, this Office and our law enforcement partners continue to dismantle MS-13, gang member by gang member, bringing them to justice for their horrendous crimes and we will not rest until our communities are safe from gang violence.  Furthermore, it is our hope that the families of the victims find some consolation that Hernandez has been held to account for his crimes.”

“It is evident by these incomprehensible crimes, that MS-13 members have zero regard for human life and their violence has no limits,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Harrison said. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to decimate this transnational gang and I thank those involved in this case for their tireless efforts to hold this individual accountable for his heinous actions.”

According to prior court filings and statements by the defendant at the guilty plea proceeding, on January 28, 2016, a Sailors clique leader and other MS-13 members and associates were present at the Jocorena Deli in Brentwood, where they saw 29-year-old Michael Johnson, and claimed to recognize him as a member of the rival Bloods street gang.  At that point, Johnson was marked as their “food,” meaning they were going to kill him.  After receiving the requisite approval from the New York leader of the Sailors clique to commit this murder, Hernandez and several other MS-13 members were contacted, informed of the plan to kill Johnson, and instructed to bring weapons, including a machete and a baseball bat, to a wooded area near Second Avenue in Brentwood.  Johnson was lured to the secluded meeting location where MS-13 members and associates, including Hernandez, struck Johnson with the baseball bat, stabbed him with a knife, and took turns hacking him with a machete.  Johnson’s body was recovered by the SCPD on February 2, 2016. 

In early 2016, Hernandez and his fellow Sailors clique members decided to kill 19-year-old Oscar Acosta because they suspected that he was associating with the rival 18th Street gang.  The Sailors clique leader assigned roles as to which members would take the lead in planning and carrying out the murder.  On April 29, 2016, several MS-13 members encountered Acosta in a wooded area near an elementary school in Brentwood, where he had been lured under the guise of smoking marijuana.  They beat Acosta with tree limbs, knocking him unconscious.  They then bound Acosta’s hands and feet, wrapped an article of clothing around his mouth to prevent him from making noise, and summoned other MS-13 members, including Hernandez.  The MS-13 members loaded Acosta into the trunk of a car and drove to a more secluded area in Brentwood, near an abandoned psychiatric hospital.  They took Acosta, who was still alive, out of the car and carried him into the woods, where they all took turns hacking him to death with a machete.  The MS-13 members then buried Acosta’s body in a shallow grave.  Acosta’s body was discovered by law enforcement on September 16, 2016.

On August 10, 2016, Hernandez and other MS-13 members attempted to kill suspected rival gang members in Brentwood.  Hernandez and another MS-13 member, both armed with handguns, approached a house on Lukens Avenue, where the suspected rival gang members were standing outside, and fired numerous shots in their direction.  No one was struck, but a stray bullet entered a neighbor’s house and struck the headboard of a bed in which the neighbor was sleeping.  Hernandez also pleaded guilty to participating in a drug distribution conspiracy, admitting that between April 2016 and October 2017, he and other members of the Sailors clique conspired to distribute cocaine and marijuana for the financial benefit of the MS-13.

When sentenced, Hernandez faces a maximum term of life in prison.

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, resulting in the convictions of 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 Paul G. Scotti, Justina L. Geraci and Megan E. Farrell are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendant:

JONATHAN HERNANDEZ (also known as “Travieso,” and “Kraken”)
Age: 24
Brentwood, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-403 (GRB)


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

Updated May 31, 2022

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