Leader of White Supremacist Group Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Make Death Threats Against Journalist
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 extradited yesterday from El Salvador to the United States. Guevara-Castro, who was arrested in Acajutla, Sonsonate, El Salvador on August 13, 2020, has been detained pending his extradition to the United States, which was formally authorized by the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador on July 12, 2022. Guevara-Castro was originally charged with the murder of 20-year-old Kerin Pineda in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Central Islip on July 9, 2020. Guevara-Castro is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, John J. Durham, Director, Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV), and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the arrest and extradition.
“The extradition of Guevara-Castro demonstrates the resolve of this Office and law enforcement to bring to justice all gang members who commit violent crimes in our district no matter where in the world they may run and try to hide,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “I hope the return of the defendant to a federal courtroom on Long Island where he will be held accountable for a vicious murder will bring some measure of closure to the family of the young victim.”
Mr. Peace expressed his 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, for their outstanding collaboration in locating and apprehending this fugitive. Additionally, Mr. Peace thanked the members of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), as well as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs (OIA), for their partnership in this case.
Guevara-Castro is presently charged in a 24-count indictment, along with seven other MS-13 members and associates, with racketeering offenses, murder and narcotics trafficking. Guevara-Castro specifically has been charged with participating in the murder of 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 extradition 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.
This investigation was carried out in partnership with Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV). 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 (JMA)
Danielle Blustein Hass
United States Attorney’s Office