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Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Luis Rivas, a member of the Centrales Locos Salvatruchas (CLS) clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, a transnational criminal organization was sentenced by United States District Judge Rachel P. Kovner to 35 years in prison for the May 16, 2017 fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Julio Vasquez in Alley Pond Park in Queens, and Hobbs Act robberies in Jamaica, Queens, after pleading guilty on July 14, 2023. Previously, co-defendant Josue Leiva, also a member of the CLS clique was sentenced on January 23, 2024 by Judge Kovner to 35 years in prison for the murder of Vasquez and Hobbs Act Robberies. Their co-defendant, and the leader of CLS, Melvi Amador-Rios, was convicted of the murder, the robberies and other charges after a three-week jury trial August 2023, and was sentenced to life in prison plus 38 years in November 2023.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Edward A. Caban, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the sentence.
“The sentencings sends a powerful message to the defendants, other MS-13 members, and the community that gratuitous and senseless violence of this nature will not be tolerated in our district,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “We hope that today brings some measure of closure to the victims and their families.”
“There is no place in our communities for barbaric violence being used to threaten and intimidate. Luis Rivas and Josue Leiva were rightly sentenced today for their roles in a senseless murder and other callously violent actions in the name of MS-13. The FBI’s New York Safe Streets Task Force is determined to ensure members of MS-13 or any other gang using violence in an attempt to control territory and people face significant punishment in the criminal justice system,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Smith.
“Meaningful prison sentences like this are why the men and women of the NYPD, in close partnership with our colleagues at the FBI and the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, continue to aggressively pursue anyone who senselessly commits violent crimes and puts our communities at risk,” stated NYPD Commissioner Caban. “We vow to remain relentless in our efforts to dismantle gangs and hold their individual members fully accountable for their actions.”
As proven at Amador-Rios’ trial, beginning in fall 2016, the CLS clique, led by Amador-Rios, decided to kill John Doe 3, a CLS chequeo, or low-level MS-13 member, who had been violating the clique’s rules, including by associating with members of the rival 18th Street gang. Amador-Rios ordered Julio Vasquez, also an MS-13 chequeo, to carry out the killing of John Doe 3. Vasquez was tasked with killing John Doe 3 because Vasquez had been violating the clique’s rules and was suspected of cooperating with law enforcement. After Vasquez failed to kill John Doe 3, Amador-Rios ordered Vasquez to be killed. On May 16, 2017, Rivas and Leiva lured Vasquez to a wooded area of Alley Pond Park where they stabbed him more than 30 times, nearly decapitating him and ultimately killing him. Vasquez’s body was discovered by a bird watcher in the park on May 21, 2017. Leiva and Rivas pleaded guilty on July 14, 2023 to racketeering charges, including Vasquez’s murder.
Leiva and Rivas also each participated in separate armed robberies of small businesses in Jamaica, Queens. In 2017, Rivas, accompanied by Amador-Rios and other gang members, robbed at gunpoint a money transfer business, during which Rivas pistol whipped an employee in the face. In 2018, Leiva, accompanied by Amador-Rios and other gang members, committed a robbery involving holding the owner and a customer of a convenience store at gunpoint.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
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. The gang has thousands of members across the United States. 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
LUIS RIVAS (also known as “Inquieto” and “Kiko”)
Jamaica, New York
JOSUE LEIVA (also known as “Colocho”)
Jamaica, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-398 (S-3) (RPK)
Danielle Blustein Hass
U.S. Attorney's Office