Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Jonathan Hernandez, also known as “Kraken” and “Travieso,” a member of the Sailors Locos Salvatruchas Westside (Sailors) clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, was sentenced by United States District Judge Gary R. Brown to 520 months’ imprisonment. Hernandez pleaded guilty in May 2022 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.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Robert Waring, Acting Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), announced the sentence.
“Today’s sentence is the result of choices the defendant made to commit serious crimes on behalf of the Sailors clique of the MS-13, including the brutal premeditated murders of two young men, assaults with dangerous weapons, attempted murders, and the distribution of drugs,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “The substantial period of incarceration imposed today will protect the public from more crimes committed by the defendant and it is my hope, deter young men from joining this depraved gang.”
“The significant sentence handed down today hopefully provides a sense of justice and closure for the families of the victims murdered by Jonathan Hernandez. The FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, along with our law enforcement partners, will remain relentless in our efforts to eliminate the threat posed by MS-13’s barbaric violence,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Smith.
“The actions of this murderer were barbaric, lack humanity and robbed families of a loved one,” stated SCPD Acting Police Commissioner Waring said. “This sentence ensures Hernandez will never have an opportunity to brutalize another person again. We will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement partners to disband this criminal enterprise and prioritize the safety of our community.”
According to court filings and statements made during Hernandez’s sentencing and guilty plea proceedings, Hernandez is a member of the Sailors clique of the MS-13 – one of the more powerful, violent, and well-established cliques on the East Coast of the United States – and committed the following crimes in order to maintain or increase his status in the gang:
The January 28, 2016 Murder of Michael Johnson
On January 28, 2016, the local leader of the Sailors clique and other MS-13 members and associates were 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” – a reference to their intention 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 by the local clique leader, informed of the plan to kill Johnson and instructed to bring weapons, including a machete and a baseball bat, to a wooded area in Brentwood. Johnson was then lured to that secluded meeting location by the local clique leader under the guise of smoking marijuana. The MS-13 members and associates, including Hernandez, ambushed him from behind – striking Johnson with the baseball bat, stabbing him with a knife, and taking turns hacking him with the machete. They fled after hearing police sirens in the area. Subsequently, Hernandez and other MS-13 associates were promoted in rank for their participation in this murder.
Johnson was reported missing by family members. Less than one week after his murder, on February 2, 2016, members of the SCPD responded to a 911 call about a body found in the woods by a passerby, and recovered Johnson’s body. An autopsy determined Johnson’s cause of death to be sharp and blunt force injuries.
The April 29, 2016 Murder of Oscar Acosta
In early 2016, Hernandez and his fellow Sailors clique members decided to “green light” 19-year-old Oscar Acosta for murder because they suspected that he was associating with the rival 18th Street gang after previously aligning himself with the MS-13. The New York Sailors clique leader assigned roles as to which members would take the lead in planning and carrying out the murder.
On April 29, 2016, a number of MS-13 members met Acosta in a wooded area near an elementary school in Brentwood where he had been lured under the guise of smoking marijuana. They brutally beat Acosta with tree limbs, knocking him unconscious. They 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 the local Sailors clique leader and Hernandez, who arrived together. The MS-13 members loaded Acosta into the trunk of a car and drove to a more secluded area in Brentwood near the abandoned Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital. They removed Acosta, who was still alive, from the car trunk and carried him into the woods where they took turns hacking him to death with a machete. The murder was supervised by the local Sailors clique leaders. The MS-13 members then buried Acosta’s body in a shallow grave.
Acosta’s body was discovered by law enforcement nearly five months later, on September 16, 2016, during a search for another MS-13 victim. His cause of death was homicidal violence, including sharp and blunt force injuries to his head and torso.
The August 10, 2016 Attempted Murder of Rival Gang Members
In 2016, members of the MS-13 were engaged in a series of disputes with members of the Goon Squad, a rival gang in Brentwood. On August 10, 2016, two armed MS-13 members, including the local leader of the Sailors clique, drove through the neighborhood around Lukens Avenue in Brentwood, and spotted several men who they believed were members of the Goon Squad, outside of a house. The MS-13 members then rallied other members of the Sailors clique, including Hernandez, to kill the rivals.
The MS-13 members divided into two vehicles, and drove towards the house where the suspected Goon Squad members had been spotted. Hernandez and another MS-13 member, armed with a .40 caliber and .45 caliber handgun, exited the car and approached the group of suspected rivals. Both fired numerous shots in their direction. No one was hit, although a stray bullet entered a neighbor’s house and struck the headboard of a bed in which the neighbor was sleeping.
Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine and Marijuana
For a year and a half, from approximately April 2016 through October 2017, in order to finance the illegal operations of the Sailors clique, Hernandez and his fellow MS-13 members and associates regularly sold street-level quantities of cocaine and marijuana in Brentwood and its surrounding areas, which they obtained from clique leaders. After the sales, the profits were turned over to the clique leaders, for use in, among other things, purchasing firearms for use by clique members, wiring money to MS-13 leaders in El Salvador and buying additional narcotics for further distribution. A conservative estimate of the amount of marijuana distributed attributable to Hernandez and his clique during this time period is between five and 10 kilograms.
Hernandez was previously sentenced in March 2018 by then-United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco to 51 months’ imprisonment in connection with his earlier guilty plea to assault with dangerous weapons in aid of racketeering. That conviction related to assaults that Hernandez and several other MS-13 members and associates carried out at athletic fields adjacent to the Brentwood East Elementary and Brentwood East Middle Schools in October 2015. Hernandez and his fellow MS-13 gang members confronted a group of individuals who they suspected of being members of a rival gang, and when that group attempted to leave the area, Hernandez and several other MS-13 members surrounded them and began viciously attacking the group with baseball bats and pipes. Today’s sentence credited Hernandez for the time he spent in custody on the previously-imposed 51-month sentence toward the 520 months’.
Today’s sentence is the latest achievement 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 65 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.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using 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 Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Paul G. Scotti, Justina L. Geraci and Megan E. Farrell are in charge of the prosecution.
JONATHAN HERNANDEZ (also known as “Kraken” and “Travieso”)
Brentwood, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-403 (GRB)