Members and Associates of 18th Street Gang Indicted for Murder of Fellow Gang Member They Suspected of Being an Informant
Defendants Video Recorded the Murder and Mutilation of the Victim Before Burying the Corpse in Turkey Point State Forest in Saugerties, New York
Earlier today, a federal grand jury in Brooklyn returned a four-count indictment charging 18th Street gang members and associates Yanki Misael Cruz-Mateo, Israel Mendiola Flores and Sergio Gerardo Herrera-Hidalgo with murder conspiracy and the October 25, 2017 murder of a fellow 18th Street gang member who was suspected of being an informant for law enforcement. A fourth defendant, Cristian Perez, was indicted for helping Cruz-Mateo to evade capture by law enforcement after the murder. Cruz-Mateo also faces firearms-related charges. Cruz-Mateo, Herrera and Perez are in federal custody. Flores is in custody in Ulster County, New York. The defendants will be arraigned on the indictment at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn on a date and time to be determined.
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), and Holley Carnright, District Attorney for Ulster County, announced the charges.
“As alleged in the court filings, these defendants committed and concealed a brutal murder against one of their own members because they suspected he had been cooperating with law enforcement,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “Violent street gangs like 18th Street perpetuate bloodshed to maintain allegiance and increase members’ status within the gang. This Office is committed to working with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to eradicate these destructive gangs.” Mr. Donoghue also expressed his appreciation to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, the New York State Police and the Kingston Police Department for their assistance during the investigation.
“Gang members don’t follow the same rule of law the rest of the community does, showing no hesitation to use violence and murder to further their activities,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “This case proves our dogged work to get them off the streets won’t slow down or stop. These gang members will now face justice based on the incredible partnership of the FBI, the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Police, the Kingston Police Department and our FBI Albany Division.”
“What these gang individuals did to that young, unarmed man is very, very, disturbing,” stated Ulster County District Attorney Carnright. “My office and the entire law enforcement community of Ulster County have offered and will continue to offer every assistance to Assistant United States Attorneys Dayananda and Lax to assure that these 18th Street gang members are brought to justice.”
As alleged in the indictment and detailed in court filings, 18th Street is a violent street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from Central America and Mexico with members located throughout Queens, New York, and elsewhere, divided into local chapters or “canchas.” The defendants are members and associates of the 18th Street gang’s chapters in Jamaica, Queens and Kingston, New York.
On the night of October 24, 2017 into the earlier morning hours of October 25, Cruz-Mateo lured a fellow 18th Street gang member, who was suspected of cooperating with law enforcement, to travel with him by bus from New York City to Kingston. Once they arrived in Kingston, Cruz-Mateo and the victim met with Herrera-Hidalgo who escorted them to Turkey Point State Forest, a 140-acre wooded park and swamp bordering the western bank of the Hudson River in Ulster County. Cruz-Mateo, Herrera-Hidalgo and Flores then stabbed the victim repeatedly. After the murder, Cruz-Mateo returned to Queens and sent a video recording of the attack to another individual. The video, which was obtained by the FBI, shows Flores slashing the victim across his neck and Cruz-Mateo severing the victim’s ear.
After the murder, Cruz-Mateo, Flores and Herrera-Hidalgo buried the victim in a makeshift grave in the forest. In February 2018, after boasting in text messages about shooting a rival MS-13 gang member in Queens, Cruz-Mateo fled to Kingston, where Perez sheltered Cruz-Mateo to conceal his location from authorities.
The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted Cruz-Mateo, Herrera-Hidalgo and Flores each face life imprisonment, and Perez faces up to 15 years’ imprisonment.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan P. Lax and Soumya Dayananda are in charge of the prosecution.
YANKI MISAEL CRUZ-MATEO (also known as “Yankee Mateo,” “Doggy” and “Wino”)
Jamaica, New York
ISRAEL MEDIOLA FLORES (also known as “Chapito” and “Sinaloa”)
Kingston, New York
SERGIO GERRARDO HERRERA-HIDALOG (also known as “Street Boy”)
Kingston, New York
CRISTIAN PEREZ (also known as “Muletas”)
Kingston, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-139 (LDH)