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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 26, 2018

MS-13 Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Long Island Murder and Attempted Murder Charges

Defendant and Co-Conspirators Murdered a MS-13 Member for Violating the Gang’s Rules and Attempted to Kill a Suspected Rival Gang Member During the Summer of 2016

Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, Elmer Alexander Lopez (“Smiley”), a member of the Centrales Locos Salvatruchas clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges relating to his participation in the June 3, 2016 murder of Jose Pena, and the July 3, 2016 attempted murder of a suspected rival gang member.  The guilty plea was entered before United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco.

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 Stuart J. Cameron, Acting Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (“SCPD”), announced the guilty plea.

“Lopez and his coconspirators took turns slashing and stabbing to death a fellow MS-13 member because the victim was suspected of violating gang rules, and merely one month later, turned a basketball court into a shooting gallery in a brazen attempt to kill a rival gang member, ” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “The killing and attempted murder perpetrated by Lopez are typical of the violence carried out by MS-13 to instill fear within its own ranks and terrorize our community. Today’s guilty plea holds the defendant accountable for his crimes and reflects the unwavering commitment by this Office and our partners with the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force to eradicate the scourge that is MS-13.”

“This case is just one in our systematic and focused dismantling of MS-13 on Long Island,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.  “Our ultimate goal is to eradicate the deadly and violent gang from the communities that have experienced murders, shooting, violence and criminal activity.  The FBI Long Island Gang Task Force and our law enforcement partners have created a massive surge of pressure on MS-13, and this plea shows proof that pressure is paying off.”

“The Suffolk County Police Department thanks the Eastern District of New York for their steadfast commitment to prosecute violent MS-13 gang members,” stated SCPD Commissioner Cameron.  “Today’s news is an example of the ongoing effort by the Suffolk County Police Department and our law enforcement partners to protect the residents of Suffolk County from the scourge of gang violence.  Ridding our community of gangs is a long-term commitment and one that we are strongly committed to.  Gang members should know that if they commit crimes in this county they will be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

As set forth in prior court filings, a detention letter, the fourth superseding indictment, and the defendant’s statements during his guilty plea, Lopez and several co-conspirators, who have been charged in the Eastern District of New York, decided to kill Pena, a member of the MS-13, because he was suspected of violating gang rules.  Prior to the murder, Lopez and the other MS-13 members held meetings where they discussed killing Pena because the MS-13 suspected that Pena had cooperated with law enforcement authorities and that he might be homosexual.  After consulting with MS-13 leadership in El Salvador, Lopez and the other MS-13 members agreed to murder Pena and tasks were assigned to each of the co-conspirators to carry out the plan, including obtaining weapons and a vehicle to be used in the murder.  On June 3, 2016, Lopez and the other MS-13 members lured Pena into a car and drove to a secluded wooded area in Brentwood, where they attacked Pena, taking turns stabbing and slashing him with knives until he was dead.  Pena’s body was not discovered until October 17, 2016, more than four months after his murder. 

In addition, Lopez admitted during his guilty plea that, one month after murdering Pena, he and other MS-13 members attempted to kill a suspected rival gang member on Lukens Avenue in Brentwood.  During 2016, Lopez and other members of the MS-13 had a series of conflicts with members of Goon Squad, a rival gang in Brentwood.  On July 3, 2016, at approximately 7:50 p.m., a man identified as John Doe #4 in the fourth superseding indictment was playing basketball with a group of individuals in front of a house on Lukens Avenue.  Lopez and two co-conspirators, who were in a Ford Mustang, saw the group, who they suspected were rival gang members, drove toward them, and one of the MS-13 members shot at the group.  John Doe #4 was struck by a bullet in the shoulder.  The victim received medical treatment and survived the shooting.

Lopez, an illegal alien from El Salvador, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison when sentenced by United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco on September 13, 2018.  Upon completion of his sentence, the defendant faces deportation from the United States. 

The charges in the fourth superseding indictment against the other defendants remain pending and are merely allegations.  Those defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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 international 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 45 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, SCPD, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, Rockville Centre Police Department, the New York State Police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Paul G. Scotti, Michael T. Keilty and Raymond A. Tierney are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendant:

ELMER ALEXANDER LOPEZ (“Smiley”)
Age:  20
Central Islip, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-403 (S-4) (JFB)

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Contact: 
John Marzulli Tyler Daniels United States Attorney’s Office (718) 254-6323
Updated March 26, 2018