Five members of La Mara Salvatrucha (also known as MS-13), Ruendy Jhonatan Hernandez-Vasquez, Jhonny Contreras, Reynaldo Lopez-Alvarado, Jeffrey Amador and Ronald Catalan, are scheduled to be arraigned this morning before United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York. The 75-count sixth superseding indictment was unsealed on August 8, 2018 and charges more than two dozen members of MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, with racketeering and related offenses.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), Geraldine Hart, Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), and Patrick J. Ryder, Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department (NCPD), announced the charges.
The superseding indictment adds one new defendant, Hernandez-Vasquez, in connection with the October 10, 2016 murder of Javier Castillo in Freeport, and a conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana. The indictment also adds racketeering offenses and related charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering against previously charged defendants Contreras, Lopez-Alvarado and Amador in connection with the November 19, 2015 murder of Cesar Rivera-Vasquez in Babylon, and racketeering offenses against Catalan for a June 23, 2009 shooting in Brentwood. In total, 16 murders committed by MS-13 members have been charged in this superseding indictment and underlying indictments in this case.
In addition, INTERPOL issued a Red Notice for Hernandez-Vasquez relating to an arrest warrant for a murder he allegedly committed in El Salvador before he illegally entered the United States.
“The MS-13’s mission to commit senseless and vicious acts of violence, terrorizing our communities in the process, is evident from the charges announced today,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “This Office and our law enforcement partners will continue our unyielding pursuit to ensure that all members of this brutal gang are held accountable for every crime they have committed and that neighborhoods on Long Island are kept safe and free from gang violence.” Mr. Donoghue expressed his sincere thanks to all the members of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force for their work on the investigation.
“MS-13 members feed on brutal, ruthless attacks threatening the safety of our communities,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “With such a violent gang tormenting the neighborhoods of Long Island, it is essential that we work closely with our fellow law enforcement agencies to continue to round up the individuals committing these violent crimes. The persistence of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force will never weaken—our investigations into MS-13 will not cease until this gang is eradicated.”
“The Suffolk County Police Department continues to work with all our partners and serves on the Long Island FBI Gang Task Force to eradicate MS-13,” stated SCPD Commissioner Hart. “This indictment sends another strong message to MS-13 members that their actions will not be tolerated and justice will be served. We applaud the Eastern District of New York for their ongoing and relentless commitment to prosecute violent gang members and will continue to work together to ensure that our communities are safe.”
“Today’s indictment of MS-13 member Ruendy Jhonatan Hernandez-Vasquez on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and distribution of cocaine and marijuana clearly shows how the work of our law enforcement agencies is a constant in our relentless efforts to remove gang members from our streets,” stated NCPD Commissioner Ryder. “Our determined and dedicated approach keeps our communities safe and I would like to thank all involved in the FBI Long Island Task Force for bringing these gang members to justice.”
2009 Attempted Murder of John Doe #1 in Brentwood
As set forth in court filings, including a detention memorandum filed earlier today, on June 23, 2009, Catalan and two other MS-13 members, all of whom were new members of the Brentwood Locos Salvatruchas clique, armed themselves with handguns and drove through Brentwood, hunting for rival gang members to attack and kill in order to increase their standing and solidify their membership in the MS-13 gang. They observed a group of males on Barleau Street, whom they believed to be members of the Bloods street gang. The MS-13 members got out of their car, approached the group and started firing. John Doe #1 was struck in the armpit and back as he tried to run. Catalan and the others ran back to the car and fled the scene. John Doe #1 underwent surgery and ultimately survived the attack.
2015 Murder of Cesar Rivera-Vasquez in Babylon
Contreras, Lopez-Alvarado and Amador are charged in this indictment with the November 19, 2015 murder of Cesar Rivera-Vasquez, who was killed because the MS-13 members suspected that he was a member of a rival Mexican gang, Raza Loca. The MS-13 members convinced the victim to go with them to a secluded area adjacent to the Long Island Railroad station in Babylon to smoke marijuana. Once there, Contreras, Lopez-Alvarado, Amador and two other MS-13 members attacked Rivera-Vasquez with knives and a baseball bat before Lopez-Alvarado took a knife and cut the victim’s throat. The MS-13 members buried his body near a large mound of dirt, and the body was not discovered until April 2018.
2016 Murder of Javier Castillo in Freeport
Hernandez-Vasquez has been added to previously charged offenses in this case in connection with the October 10, 2016 murder of Javier Castillo. The MS-13 members suspected Castillo of being a member of the rival 18th Street gang and convinced him to go with them to Cow Meadow Park in Freeport. Once there, they attacked and killed him with a machete and buried his body in a shallow grave near a saltwater marsh. Castillo’s body was not recovered until October 2017. The sixth superseding indictment also adds marijuana and cocaine conspiracy charges against Hernandez-Vasquez.
In addition to the Rivera-Vasquez and Castillo murders, 14 other murders previously were charged in this case, including, the May 26, 2013 murder of Derrick Mayes, the May 28, 2013 murder of Keenan Russell, the July 14, 2014 murder of Jose Lainez-Murcia, the June 30, 2015 murder of Jonathan Cardona-Hernandez, the April 29, 2016 murder of Oscar Acosta, the June 3, 2016 murder of Jose Pena, the September 13, 2016 murders of Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, the October 13, 2016 murder of Dewann Stacks, the January 30, 2017 murder of Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla, and the April 11, 2017 murders of Justin Llivicura, Michael Lopez, Jorge Tigre and Jefferson Villalobos, as well as numerous attempted murders and assaults.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Today’s superseding indictment 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. The MS-13’s leadership is based in El Salvador and Honduras, but the gang has thousands of members across the United States, comprised primarily of immigrants from Central America. With numerous branches, or “cliques,” the MS-13 is the largest and most violent street gang 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 45 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, comprising agents and officers of the FBI, SCPD, NCPD, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, Rockville Centre Police Department, New York State Police and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
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, Michael T. Keilty and Raymond A. Tierney are in charge of the prosecution.
RUENDY JHONATAN HERNANDEZ-VASQUEZ (“Solido”)
Roosevelt and Freeport, New York
Previously Indicted Defendants Facing Additional Charges:
JHONNY CONTRERAS (“Muerte” and “Reaper”)
Brentwood, New York
REYNALDO LOPEZ-ALVARADO (“Mente”)
Brentwood, New York
JEFFREY AMADOR (“Cruel”)
Brentwood, New York
RONALD CATALAN (“Stranger” and “Extrano”)
Brentwood, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-403 (S-6)(JFB)