MS-13 Gang Leader Sentenced to Life in Prison for Racketeering Charges Including the Murder of 16-Year-Old Victim in Alley Pond Park in Queens
José Jonathan Guevara-Castro, also known as “Suspechoso” (“Guevara-Castro”), an alleged member of the violent transnational criminal organization La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the “MS-13,” and a fugitive from justice, was arrested on August 13, 2020 in Acajutla, Sonsonate, El Salvador.
Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; John J. Durham, Director, Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV); and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the arrest.
“Guevara’s arrest more than 2,000 miles away from Long Island where he allegedly participated in the brutal murder of a young man more than four years ago, is a testament to the commitment of this Office and our law enforcement partners to bringing members of the MS-13 gang to justice for their crimes,” stated Acting United States Attorney DuCharme. “There is no place to hide, here or abroad, and neither distance nor the passage of time will offer any safe harbor to criminals from our mission to eradicate violent gangs from the Eastern District of New York.”
Mr. DuCharme expressed his grateful appreciation to the investigators and analysts of El Salvador’s Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) Centro Antipandillas Transnacional (CAT) unit, who are assigned to the Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Unit, a task force of Salvadoran police officers receiving financial and technical assistance from the FBI and State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, for their outstanding assistance and collaboration in locating and apprehending this fugitive. Additionally, Mr. DuCharme expressed sincere thanks to the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD), and the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office (NCDAO), as well as to the members of the FBI Baltimore Field Office/Annapolis Resident Agency, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs (OIA), for their partnership in this case.
Guevara-Castro is charged in a 24-count indictment, along with seven other MS-13 members, with racketeering offenses, murder and narcotics trafficking. In particular, Guevara-Castro is charged with participating in the murder of 20-year-old Kerin Pineda, who was believed to be a member of the 18th Street gang, one of MS-13’s principal rivals. Pineda’s murder was committed as a joint venture between two different subgroups, or “cliques,” of the MS-13 operating on Long Island: the Hollywood Locos Salvatruchas (“Hollywood”) clique, of which Guevara-Castro was an alleged member; and the Sailors Locos Salvatruchas Westside (“Sailors”) clique. On May 21, 2016, MS-13 members, armed with machetes, lured Pineda to a secluded wooded area near the Merrick-Freeport border, where he was surrounded and violently attacked. Pineda’s machete-mutilated corpse was then buried in a hole that had been dug the day before. Pineda’s corpse was recovered more than one year later.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant and his co-defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Guevara-Castro faces up to life in prison.
This 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, a violent transnational criminal organization. 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 60 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, the NCPD, the Suffolk County Police Department, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, the Suffolk County Probation 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 investigation was carried out in partnership with Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV). In August 2019, Attorney General Barr created JTFV to carry out the recommendations of the MS-13 subcommittee formed under the Attorney General’s Transnational Organized Crime Task Force, which was the result of President Trump’s February 2017 Executive Order directing the Departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to dismantle transnational criminal organizations, such as MS-13, and restore safety for the American people. The principal purpose of JTFV is to coordinate and lead the efforts of the Justice Department and U.S. law enforcement agencies against MS-13 in order to dismantle the group.
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, with assistance from Assistant District Attorney Jared Rosenblatt of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.
JOSE JONATHAN GUEVARA-CASTRO (also known as “Suspechoso”)
Acajutla, Sonsonate, El Salvador; formerly of Roosevelt, New York, and Annapolis, Maryland
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 20-CR-251 (JFB)
United States Attorney’s Office