Manager of Sex Trafficking and Prostitution Ring Indicted on Racketeering and Related Charges Along With Two of the Organization’s Enforcers
Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Nelson Argueta-Quintanilla, also known as “Mendigo”, a member of the violent transnational criminal organization La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the “MS-13,” was sentenced by United States District Judge Gary R. Brown to 327 months in prison for his role in the murder of Oscar Acosta, whose body was found on the grounds of an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Brentwood, and a subsequent attempt to shoot and kill rival gang members on Lukens Avenue in Brentwood. The defendant, a self-admitted member of the Sailors Locos Salvatruchas Westside (Sailors) clique, pleaded guilty in September 2021 to racketeering and admitted to his involvement in the Acosta murder and Lukens Avenue shooting, as well as narcotics trafficking on behalf of the MS-13.
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 sentence.
“Demonstrating the defendant’s complete disregard for human life, today’s sentence is a fitting punishment for a brutal murder followed by another reckless shooting,” stated U.S. Attorney Peace. “This Office and our law enforcement partners remain committed to holding violent actors, including gang members, accountable for the fear, destruction, and death they bring to our communities.”
Argueta-Quintanilla and other MS-13 members targeted Acosta for death because he previously had associated with the MS-13, but later began associating with the rival 18th Street gang. On April 29, 2016, a group of MS-13 members, including the defendant, gathered in a wooded area near an elementary school in Brentwood where they learned a fellow MS-13 member was meeting Acosta to smoke marijuana. When Acosta arrived in the woods, the defendant and the other gang members repeatedly struck Acosta with a large tree branch, knocking him unconscious. They then called the leader of the Sailors clique who arrived at their location with additional members of the gang. The MS-13 members decided to move Acosta to a more isolated area. They tied his hands and feet together and carried Acosta into the trunk of a car. Two cars of gang members, one with Acosta’s body in the trunk, ultimately drove to a secluded wooded area in Brentwood behind several warehouses and adjacent to the grounds of an abandoned psychiatric hospital. Once they arrived, the MS-13 members carried Acosta, still alive, into the woods. Once in the woods, the defendant and three other MS-13 members took turns striking Acosta with a machete. The MS-13 members then put Acosta in a shallow grave, covered him with dirt, and fled the area. On September 16, 2016, while searching for the victim of a different MS-13 murder, law enforcement found Acosta’s body, which was in a shallow grave, and his hands and feet were still bound.
Separately, on the evening of August 10, 2016, the defendant agreed with other Sailors clique members to drive around Brentwood hunting for rival gang members to kill. After observing a number of men standing outside of a house on Lukens Avenue, who they believed were members of the rival gang Goon Squad, the defendant and another MS-13 member, armed with .45 and .40 caliber handguns, respectively, got out of their car, approached the house and opened fire at the group. The defendant fired multiple shots with the .45 caliber handgun. One of the .40 caliber bullets fired by the other MS-13 member traveled through the bedroom wall of an adjacent house and struck the headboard of an elderly woman’s bed. Fortunately, no one was injured in the shooting.
On May 2, 2018, the defendant was arrested on a federal warrant in connection with this case. At the time, he was in immigration custody and had been since June 27, 2017.
Today’s sentencing is the latest accomplishment in a series of federal prosecutions by the USAO-EDNY targeting members and associates 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 and associates with carrying out more than 60 murders in the district, and has convicted dozens of MS-13 leaders, members, and associates 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, New York State Police, Hempstead Police Department, Rockville Centre Police Department, and 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, and Megan E. Farrell are in charge of the prosecution.
NELSON ARGUETA-QUINTANILLA (also known as “Mendigo”)
Residence: formerly of Central Islip and Brentwood, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No.: 16-CR-403 (S-7) (GRB)
Danielle Blustein Hass
United States Attorney’s Office