Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Reynaldo Lopez-Alvarado, also known as “Mente,” a member of the Brentwood Locos Salvatruchas clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in connection with his participation in the November 19, 2015 murder of Cesar Rivera-Vasquez, an attempted murder that occurred on April 9, 2013 in Bay Shore, and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice. The proceeding was held before United States Magistrate Judge Steven I. Locke. When sentenced, Lopez-Alvarado faces up to life in prison.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Rodney K. Harrison, Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), announced the guilty plea.
“In a twisted desire to enhance his status within the MS-13 gang and without any regard for human life, the defendant admittedly participated in extremely violent crimes, including murder and a shooting,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Lopez-Alvarado faces very serious consequences for his senseless actions which I hope will be of some relief to the community, including the family and friends of his victims. This Office, together with the Long Island Gang Task Force, is working tirelessly to bring MS-13 gang members to justice for the havoc they have wrought on Long Island.”
“This case is a grim reminder of the inhumane acts individuals are willing to commit just to elevate their status within a gang,” stated SCPD Commissioner Harrison. “Let this guilty plea be a testament of our commitment to hold gang members accountable for their heinous crimes. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure public safety on our streets.”
According to court filings and statements by the defendant at the guilty plea proceeding, Lopez-Alvarado participated in the April 9, 2013 attempted murder of a man on Benton Place in Bay Shore. Lopez-Alvarado, who was a new member of the MS-13 at the time, and another MS-13 member went out looking to kill a rival gang member in order for Lopez-Alvarado to gain full status in the gang. When they observed a group of men who they assumed were members of the rival Bloods street gang, Lopez-Alvarado and his co-conspirator retrieved a .25 caliber handgun and 20-gauge shotgun, drove back to Benton Place, approached the group of men and opened fire. One victim was struck and was subsequently transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and survived the shooting.
Approximately one month after that, Lopez-Alvarado conspired to obstruct justice by assisting fellow gang members after they had committed two murders. Specifically, on May 28, 2013, Lopez-Alvarado came to the aid of fellow gang members, who had just shot and killed Kennan Russell at a house party in Central Islip, when the minivan they had stolen and subsequently used in not only the Russell murder but also the May 26, 2013 murder of Derrick Mayes, ran out of gas and broke down. In addition to helping his fellow gang members get gas and hide the firearms used in the Russell murder, Lopez-Alvarado and other MS-13 members, who had learned that the minivan had been linked to the murders, agreed to destroy it. Lopez-Alvarado and his fellow MS-13 gang members then cleaned the minivan to remove any fingerprints, drove it to a wooded area in Ronkonkoma, doused it with gas, and set it on fire.
In addition, Lopez-Alvarado admitted during his guilty plea to participating in the murder of Rivera-Vasquez on November 19, 2015, in Babylon. Rivera-Vasquez was murdered by Lopez-Alvarado and other MS-13 members because the gang suspected him of belonging to a rival Mexican gang, Raza Loca. On the night of the murder, Lopez-Alvarado and his co-conspirators saw Rivera-Vasquez at a deli located near the Babylon Long Island Railroad train station. Lopez-Alvarado and the other MS-13 members convinced the victim to leave with them to smoke marijuana and brought him to an isolated area behind a nearby baseball field. The gang members, who were armed with knives and a baseball bat, told the victim to take off his shirt so they could observe a tattoo they believed signified the victim’s membership in the rival gang. After observing the tattoo, Lopez-Alvarado and the other MS-13 members attacked Rivera-Vasquez, beating him with the bat and stabbing him repeatedly with knives before one of the co-conspirators cut the victim’s throat. The MS-13 members buried Rivera-Vasquez’s body near a large mound of dirt. The body was discovered in April 2018.
Today’s conviction 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, 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 with carrying out more than 60 murders in the Eastern District of New York, resulting in the convictions of 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, 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, 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.
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.
Brentwood, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-403 (GRB)