Due to the lapse in appropriations, Department of Justice websites will not be regularly updated. The Department’s essential law enforcement and national security functions will continue. Please refer to the Department of Justice’s contingency plan for more information.

You are here

Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

MS-13 Gang Member Sentenced to 25 Years’ Imprisonment for Murder and Attempted Murder on Long Island

MS-13 Member Murdered for Violating the Gang’s Rules

Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, Elmer Alexander Lopez, a member of the Centrales Locos Salvatruchas clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, was sentenced by United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco to 25 years’ imprisonment.  The sentencing follows Lopez’s guilty plea 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.  Upon completion of his sentence, Lopez, an illegal alien from El Salvador, faces deportation from the United States. 

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 sentence.

“With today’s sentence, Elmer Lopez has been held responsible for the brutal acts of violence he committed on behalf of MS-13 to enforce its vicious rules,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “The defendant’s conviction, and the ongoing prosecutions of dozens of other MS-13 members by our Office working with the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, reflects the ongoing commitment to eliminate this lawless criminal organization.”

“At just 21 years old, Elmer Lopez is already responsible for the vicious murder of a fellow MS-13 member and the attempted murder of a rival. Our communities are safer when criminals like Lopez are behind bars,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “As today’s sentence demonstrates, the FBI Long Island Gang Task Force and our law enforcement partners will continue to put pressure on MS-13 until we reach our ultimate goal of eradicating this deadly gang from our community.”

“This sentencing will ensure that yet another violent member of MS-13 will be imprisoned for his part in a vicious murder and an attempted murder,” stated SCPD Commissioner Hart. “This case highlights the malicious nature of MS-13 and the department’s dedication to ridding our communities of their violence. I would like to thank the Eastern District and the Long Island Gang Task Force for their partnership and perseverance in holding gang members accountable for their incomprehensible crimes.”

“The sentencing of defendant Lopez on murder and attempted murder charges speaks volumes regarding the Long Island Gang Task Force, its affiliated law enforcement agencies and its dedicated investigators,” stated NCPD Commissioner Ryder.  “All too often this gang violence spills into our neighborhoods and places our families and communities at risk.  MS-13 and their criminal tactics can never be tolerated as law enforcement is working tirelessly to keep our communities safe and free from their violence.”

Lopez and several MS-13 co-conspirators who have been charged in this district decided to kill Pena, also a member of the MS-13, because he was suspected of violating gang rules by cooperating with law enforcement after his arrest and because he might be homosexual.  On June 3, 2016, after consulting with MS-13 leadership in El Salvador, Lopez and his co-conspirators lured Pena into a car and drove to a secluded wooded area in Brentwood where they attacked him, taking turns stabbing and slashing him with knives until he was dead.  Pena’s body was discovered on October 17, 2016, more than four months after his murder. 

At his guilty plea proceeding, Lopez admitted that approximately one month after murdering Pena, he and other MS-13 members attempted to kill a suspected member of the Goon Squad, rival gang in Brentwood.  On July 3, 2016, a man identified as John Doe #4 in the indictment was playing basketball with others on Lukens Avenue.  Lopez and two MS-13 co-conspirators saw the group and suspected they were members of the Goon Squad.  One of the MS-13 co-conspirators shot at the group, striking John Doe #4 in the shoulder.  Wounded, John Doe #4 received medical treatment and survived.

Today’s sentencing 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.  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,” 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.  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, 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, Raymond A. Tierney and Justina L. Geraci are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendant:

ELMER ALEXANDER LOPEZ (also known as “Smiley”)
Age:  21
Central Islip, New York

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

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Contact: 
John Marzulli Tyler Daniels United States Attorney’s Office (718) 254-6323
Updated December 18, 2018