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Justice News

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

Monday, August 20, 2018

MS-13 Gang Member Pleads Guilty to the Murders of Four Young Men in a Central Islip Park in 2017

Defendant and Other MS-13 Members Attacked and Killed Their Victims Using Machetes, Knives and Wooden Clubs

Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York, Josue Portillo, a member of the Leeward Locos Salvatruchas clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges without a plea agreement with the government, relating to his participation in the April 11, 2017 murders of Justin Llivicura, Michael Lopez, Jorge Tigre and Jefferson Villalobos.  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), Geraldine Hart, Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), and Patrick J. Ryder, Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department (NCPD), announced the guilty plea.

Portillo, who was 15 years and 11 months old at the time of the April 11 murders and is now 17 years old, was initially charged by a juvenile information that was filed under seal in the Eastern District of New York on July 10, 2017.  Portillo, an illegal alien from El Salvador, was in immigration custody in Virginia when charged, and he was subsequently transferred to the custody of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force and transported to this district.  Thereafter, the government filed a motion to transfer Portillo to adult status for prosecution.  Following an evidentiary hearing, on August 6, 2018, Judge Bianco issued a Memorandum and Order granting the government’s transfer motion and ordering that Portillo be prosecuted as an adult. 

“Josue Portillo’s guilty plea today marks a milestone in the investigation of MS-13’s brutal murders of four young men lured to their violent deaths in a park on Long Island,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “We hope the victims’ families can find some measure of solace in knowing that the perpetrators of these murders are now being held responsible for their crimes.  The Eastern District, together with our partners on the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, will never tire nor relent in our efforts to dismantle MS-13 and bring to justice their members who have no respect for human life.” Mr. Donoghue expressed his appreciation to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia for their assistance in the case.

“Whether young or old, the savagery of MS-13 gang members remains the same. Portillo and other members of MS-13 brutally beat and killed four young men, leaving them in an isolated wooden area,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.  “The FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force’s continuous effort to eliminate the threat of MS-13 is shown today, as Portillo has now pled guilty for the cruel crime he committed. We hope today's news provides some measure of comfort to the families of the victims and the community as a whole.”

“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 Hart.  “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 that they will be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

 “This investigation is a clear example of the important partnership and dedicated investigators that exist within the Long Island Gang Task Force,” stated NCPD Commissioner Ryder.  “These arrests are taking violent criminals off our streets, which equates to safer communities for our residents.  We will never tolerate murder, gang violence and drug dealing, thus making these crimes a priority.  I would like to congratulate all of the individuals who assisted with this lengthy and complex investigation.”

According to court filings and statements by the defendant at the guilty plea proceeding, on the evening of April 11, 2017, two female associates of the MS-13 lured five young men, including the four victims, to a community park in Central Islip at the direction of Portillo and other MS-13 members.  The victims were believed to be members of a rival gang who had disrespected the MS-13.  Portillo and several MS-13 members and associates met in a wooded area behind the park where they distributed weapons and discussed the plan to kill the victims.  The female MS-13 associates then arrived at the park, led the victims to a wooded area and sent Portillo a text message describing their location.  Portillo and the other MS-13 members and associates surrounded the victims and killed Llivicura, Lopez, Tigre and Villalobos using machetes, knives and wooden clubs.  The fifth intended victim escaped.  Portillo and his associates dragged the victims’ bodies to a more secluded spot and fled.  The victims’ bodies were discovered the following evening.

When sentenced, Portillo, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.  Upon completion of his sentence, he faces deportation from the United States.

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 this district.  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 this 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 the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, comprising agents and officers of the FBI, SCPD, NCPD, 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:

JOSUE PORTILLO (“Sparky” and “Curioso”)
Age:  17
Central Islip, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CR-366 (S-1) (JFB)

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Updated August 20, 2018