Co-Founder of Sinaloa Cartel Charged in Superseding Indictment with Conspiracy to Manufacture and Distribute Fentanyl
Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Melvi Amador-Rios, a leader of the Centrales Locos Salvatruchas (CLS) clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, was sentenced by United States District Judge Rachel P. Kovner to life in prison for murder in-aid-of racketeering. The defendant was also sentenced to 80 years in prison for four Hobbs Act robberies, 40 years in prison for ordering a non-fatal shooting and 38 years in prison for firearms charges, to run consecutive to the sentences on all other counts. Amador-Rios was convicted of racketeering, murder in-aid-of racketeering in connection with the May 16, 2017 fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Julio Vasquez in Queens, attempted murder in-aid-of racketeering, assault-in aid-of racketeering, firearms offenses and four counts of Hobbs Act robbery after a three-week jury trial in July and August 2023.
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 Edward A. Caban, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the sentence.
“The defendant will deservedly serve a life sentence for the murder, attempted murder and armed robberies he committed on behalf of MS-13,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Today’s sentence reflects justice for the heinous and senseless nature of the defendant’s crimes and the terror he inflicted on his victims, their families and the community.”
“This is the culmination of another thorough, intelligence-led investigation of a violent gang member who will thankfully never have the opportunity to victimize another New Yorker,” stated NYPD Commissioner Caban. “I commend our NYPD investigators and law enforcement partners, whose tireless efforts on this important case ensured today’s meaningful prison sentence. We vow to remain relentless in identifying, arresting, and holding to full account everyone responsible for driving crime and disorder in our city.”
Murder of Julio Vasquez
As proven at trial, beginning in fall 2016, the CLS clique, led by Amador-Rios, decided to kill a CLS chequeo, or low-level MS-13 member (referred to in the superseding indictment as John Doe 3) who had been violating the clique’s rules, including by associating with members of the rival 18th Street gang. Amador-Rios ordered Julio Vasquez, also an MS-13 chequeo, to carry out the killing of John Doe 3. Vasquez was tasked with killing John Doe 3 because he too had been violating the clique’s rules and was suspected of cooperating with law enforcement. After Vasquez failed to kill John Doe 3, Amador-Rios ordered Vasquez be killed. On May 16, 2017, Vasquez was lured to a wooded area of Alley Pond Park where co-conspirators Josue Leiva and Luis Rivas stabbed him more than 30 times, killing him. Vasquez’s body was discovered by a bird watcher in the park on May 21, 2017. Leiva and Rivas pleaded guilty on July 14, 2023 to racketeering charges, including Vasquez’s murder. They are awaiting sentencing.
2016 Attempted Murder
In October 2016, Amador-Rios ordered a CLS chequeo to kill a member of the rival 18th Street gang. The chequeo targeted a boy that he believed to be a member of the rival 18th Street gang (referred to in the superseding indictment as John Doe 1). In the early morning hours of October 23, 2016, in the vicinity of 179th Street and 90th Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, the CLS chequeo, accompanied by two others, confronted John Doe 1, who was 16 years old at the time. At Amador-Rios’s direction, the chequeos beat John Doe 1, shot him in the head, and attempted to shoot him a second time as he lay on the ground. The gun malfunctioned, but, as a result of the gunshot wound, John Doe 1 was permanently paralyzed. Following the arrests of the chequeos for the shooting, Amador-Rios informed them in a prison call that “you guys already have the pass, you know, to be homeboys, you know,” indicating that they would be promoted in the gang for committing the attempted murder. The three chequeos have each pleaded guilty to their participation in the assault and attempted murder of John Doe 1, including variously assault in-aid-of racketeering, attempted murder in-aid-of racketeering and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
Amador-Rios also participated in the armed robbery of a money transfer business during which an employee was pistol whipped, three armed robberies of convenience stores in Jamaica, Queens, one during which a four-year-old child was present, and related firearms offenses.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF
Today’s sentencing 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 was based in El Salvador and Honduras, but the gang has thousands of members across the United States. 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 district and has convicted dozens of MS-13 leaders and members in connection with those murders. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by our law enforcement partners including the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, comprising agents and officers of the FBI and NYPD.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States
MELVI AMADOR-RIOS (also known as “Letal” and “Pinky”)
Briarwood, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-398 (S-3) (RPK)
Danielle Blustein Hass
U.S. Attorney's Office