Former DOJ Paralegal Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison for Witness Retaliation and Obstruction of Justice-Related Crimes
An 18-count third superseding indictment was filed today in federal court in Brooklyn, charging three members of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, variously with racketeering, murder, attempted murder, murder conspiracy, robberies and related firearms charges. Among the offenses added in the third superseding indictment are murder charges against Melvi Amador-Rios, Josue Leiva and new defendant Luis Rivas for the May 16, 2017 fatal stabbing of 16-year-old-Julio Vasquez in Queens. The defendants will be arraigned at a later date.
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 James P. O’Neill, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the charges.
“The superseding indictment alleges multiple murder conspiracies, including a kill-or-be-killed plot culminating in the brutal murder of a teen victim who was stabbed to death for not carrying out a lethal order himself,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “The mindless violence embodied by MS-13 presents extreme danger to our communities and underscores the resolve of this Office, together with our law enforcement partners, to eradicate the gang.”
“MS-13 traffics in violence for no other reason than to use mortal fear as a way to control people and territory,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “They have no regard for life, and anyone who shows any kind of normal human empathy pays the ultimate price. The FBI New York Safe Streets Task Forces in Queens and Long Island have not let up on our determination to eradicate this gang from our communities.”
“This case provides an illustration of the extreme violence of gangs and their members,” stated NYPD Commissioner O’Neill. “And it’s why the NYPD and its law enforcement partners aggressively pursue those who commit violent crimes and put safe communities at risk. I want to thank the FBI and the Eastern District for their work to bring today’s federal indictments against three violent gang members.”
According to court filings, Amador-Rios, Leiva and Rivas are members of the Centrales Locos Salvatruchas (“CLS”) clique of MS-13. In early 2017, Amador-Rios, the leader of the CLS clique, authorized the murder of an individual referred to in the indictment as John Doe 2, a chequeo, or low-level MS-13 member, who was suspected of associating with a rival gang. Subsequently, Amador-Rios suspected that another chequeo, John Doe 3, had warned John Doe 2 that the clique intended to kill him. Amador-Rios then ordered the murder of John Doe 3, and Vasquez, also a CLS chequeo, was tasked with the killing. After Vasquez failed to kill John Doe 3, and because he was also suspected of cooperating with law enforcement, Amador-Rios ordered the killing of Vasquez. On May 16, 2017, Vasquez was lured to a wooded area of Alley Pond Park where Leiva and Rivas stabbed him multiple times, killing him. Vasquez’s body was discovererd on May 21, 2017.
The superseding indictment also adds a robbery charge and associated firearms offense against Amador-Rios and Rivas. On January 8, 2017, they allegedly robbed a money transfer business in Jamaica at gunpoint, and pistol-whipped an employee.
The charges in the superseding indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants face life in prison.
Today’s superseding indictment 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. 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. 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 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 our law enforcement partners including the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, comprising agents and officers of the FBI and NYPD.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Nadia E. Moore and Phil Selden are in charge of the prosecution.
MELVI AMADOR-RIOS (“Letal” and “Pinky”)
Briarwood, New York
JOSUE LEIVA (“Colocho”)
Jamaica, New York
LUIS RIVAS (“Inquieto” and “Kiko”)
Jamaica, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-398 (S-3) (RRM)
United States Attorney’s Office