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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 22, 2019

MS-13 Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Charges for 2016 Murder and Attempted Murder on Long Island

Carlos Argueta and Co-Conspirators Murdered an MS-13 Member for Violating the Gang’s Rules and Attempted to Kill a Suspected Rival Gang Member in Brentwood

Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, Carlos Argueta, also known as “Violento,” “Desorden” and “Dylan,” the former leader of the Freeport Locos Salvatruchas clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, pleaded guilty to racketeering and firearms charges for his participation in the January 15, 2016 attempted murder of a suspected rival gang member outside the Brentwood public library, and the June 3, 2016 murder in Brentwood of Jose Pena, an MS-13 member who was suspected of violating the gang’s rules.  The guilty plea was entered before United States Circuit 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.

“With today’s guilty plea, Argueta admitted that while free on bail for shooting a gang rival in broad daylight outside a public library less than six months earlier, he planned and carried out the vicious murder of a fellow gang member on behalf of the MS-13,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “This Office, together with the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, will continue working tirelessly to eradicate MS-13 and hold its members accountable for their senseless violence.” 

“The twisted code the members and leadership of the MS-13 adhere to doesn't make sense to anyone outside of the gang,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.  “They brutally take the lives of people because they didn’t follow the rules.  There is no world where those thought processes and behaviors are okay.  Our FBI Long Island Gang Task Force is doing all it can to root out all the violence this gang has created and bring those responsible to justice.”

“This guilty plea ensures that another member of MS-13 will face up to life in prison for killing a member of his own gang and attempting to murder a suspected rival gang member—two cases that are a reminder of the heinous nature of this transnational gang,” stated SCPD Commissioner Hart.  “We applaud the effort of prosecutors to ensure Argueta would be tried as an adult to face the stiffest penalties possible.  I would like to thank the Eastern District of New York and our partners on the FBI Long Island Gang Task Force for their continued partnership and commitment in bringing gang members to justice.”

“The guilty plea of defendant and MS-13 member Carlos Argueta should serve as an example of how multi-jurisdictional law enforcement agencies collaborate to bring violent defendants like these to justice,” stated NCPD Commissioner Ryder.  “The tireless work of the dedicated men and women of these agencies have made our communities and streets safer, and I would like to congratulate all for a job well done.  As we continue our zero tolerance approach toward illegal gangs, this defendant’s blatant disregard for society and life will be met with incarceration.”   

As set forth in prior court filings and the defendant’s statements during his guilty plea, Argueta and several other MS-13 members confronted three suspected rival gang members outside a public library in Brentwood on January 15, 2016.  Argueta removed a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun from his waistband and shot one of the men, identified as John Doe in the superseding indictment, in the torso.  Argueta and the other MS-13 members then fled.  The wounded victim received medical treatment and survived. 

Argueta, Pena and a third MS-13 member were subsequently arrested by Suffolk County Police Officers in connection with the attempted murder of John Doe, and were released on bail.  Argueta subsequently demanded to see the other two MS-13 members’ arrest paperwork in connection with the shooting.  Argueta then informed other members of the Freeport clique that he suspected that Pena, a member of the Normandie clique of the MS-13, had cooperated with the SCPD.  Additionally, members of the MS-13 suspected that Pena was homosexual, which is unacceptable under the rules of the MS-13.

After consulting with MS-13 leaders in El Salvador, Argueta and other MS-13 members agreed to kill Pena and Argueta assigned tasks to other MS-13 gang members, including procuring weapons and a vehicle to be used in the murder.  On June 3, 2016, Argueta and other MS-13 members lured Pena into a car, and drove to a secluded wooded area in Brentwood.  After walking into the woods, the group attacked Pena, taking turns stabbing and slashing him with knives, and killing him.  More than four months thereafter, Pena’s body was found. 

On September 20, 2016, Argueta, who was 16 years old at the time of the crimes, was arrested by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, and charged in juvenile informations filed under seal.  The government subsequently filed a motion to transfer Argueta to adult status for prosecution, and an evidentiary hearing was held on the transfer motion.  On September 7, 2017, Judge Bianco issued a Memorandum and Order granting the government’s motion, and ordered that Argueta be prosecuted as an adult.  Argueta appealed, and on December 20, 2018, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Bianco’s decision.

When sentenced, Argueta faces a maximum of life in prison.  Upon completion of his sentence, Argueta, an illegal alien from El Salvador, 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 the Eastern District of New York.  A majority of those MS-13 members have been convicted of 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, NCPD, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, Rockville Centre Police Department, New York State Police, and 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, Justina L. Geraci and Michael T. Keilty are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendant:

Carlos Argueta (“Violento,” “Desorden” and “Dylan”)
Age: 20
Brentwood, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-510 (S-2) (JFB)

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Contact: 
John Marzulli Tyler Daniels United States Attorney’s Office (718) 254-6323
Updated July 22, 2019