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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 25, 2016

MS-13 Members Indicted For Four Murders, Attempted Murder, Arson, Obstruction Of Justice, And Firearms Offenses

Gang Members Killed Four Men in Central Islip and Brentwood Between 2013 and 2015

A 23-count indictment was unsealed today in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging defendants Edwin Amaya-Sanchez, also known as “Strong, “William Castellanos, also known as “Dizzy” and “Satanico,” Jhonny Contreras, also known as “Reaper” and “Conejo,” and Reynaldo Lopez-Alvarado, also known as “Mente,” all of whom are all members of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13 (MS-13), with four murders, including the May 26 and 28, 2013 murders of Derrick Mayes and Keenan Russell, the July 14, 2014 murder of Jose Lainez-Murcia, the June 30, 2015 murder of Jonathan Cardona-Hernandez, and an April 9, 2013 attempted murder, as well as related firearms, accessory after the fact, obstruction of justice, and arson offenses.

The charges were announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Timothy D. Sini, Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD).

“The senseless and depraved violence reflected in the devastating loss of life allegedly at the hands of these defendants and their fellow gang members is a trademark of the MS-13.  Whether it is random violence exemplified by the murders of Derrick Mayes and Keenan Russell, or the targeted executions of Jose Lainez-Murcia and Jonathan Cardona-Hernandez, the MS-13’s thirst for murder and mayhem is a threat to our communities who are affected by their brutal acts of violence,” stated United States Attorney Capers.  “This Office and our law enforcement partners will continue our steadfast resolve to dismantle the MS-13 and keep our communities safe from gang violence.”  Mr. Capers expressed his grateful appreciation to all the members of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force.

“The history of MS-13 illustrates in vivid detail the gang simply has no regard for human life.  As detailed in this case, these men allegedly killed random people they did not know, and actively targeted others.  The FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force works aggressively each day to track down anyone associated with the gang in the hope that we will stop their next random killing,” stated Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez. 

“This prosecution is an enormous victory for Suffolk County residents, and we thank the United States Attorney's Office and the FBI for their continued partnership.  With this case, we continue to send the clear message to gang members in Suffolk County that the Suffolk County Police Department, along with our law enforcement partners, will bring you to justice for your heinous and depraved crimes.  This is just the beginning of results that our renewed partnership with our federal law enforcement partners will reap for Suffolk County residents,” stated Commissioner Sini. 

As detailed in the indictment and the government’s detention letter filed earlier today, Contreras is charged with the murders of Mayes and Russell, who were both killed in Central Islip over Memorial Day weekend in 2013.  On May 26, 2013, Contreras and another MS-13 member armed themselves with a .25 caliber handgun and 20-gauge shotgun and drove around Central Islip in a stolen minivan looking for rival gang members to kill.  While on Wilson Boulevard, Contreras and his co-conspirator observed Mayes, an African-American man, whom they did not know, but assumed to be a member of the Bloods street gang because he was wearing an article of red clothing.  The MS-13 members approached Mayes, shot him multiple times, and killed him.  On May 27-28, 2013, Contreras and several other MS-13 members, who were armed with the same .25 caliber handgun and 20-gauge shotgun, as well as a 9mm handgun, again drove around Central Islip in the stolen minivan and other vehicles, looking for rival gang members to kill, and observed several African-Americans, including Russell, outside a house party on Acorn Street.  The MS-13 members approached Russell, who they again did not know, but assumed to be a member of the Bloods, opened fire with the weapons, and killed him.  When the MS-13 members fled the scene in the minivan, they ran out of gas and called Lopez-Alvarado, who helped them get gas and hide the firearms.  Later, the MS-13 members learned that the minivan had been linked to the murders and they agreed to destroy it.  Contreras, Lopez-Alvarado and another MS-13 member wiped the minivan down to remove any fingerprints, drove it to a wooded area in Ronkonkoma, doused it with gas, and set it on fire.  Shortly after participating in the Mayes and Russell murders, Contreras, who had been an MS-13 associate, was inducted as a member of the MS-13.

Amaya-Sanchez is indicted in connection with the July 14, 2014 murder of Lainez-Murcia, who was shot and killed while sitting in a car outside of his home on Twin Lawns Avenue in Brentwood.  Amaya-Sanchez orchestrated the murder because he believed that Lainez-Murcia was an assassin who had killed MS-13 members in El Salvador.  Amaya-Sanchez, who worked with Lainez-Murcia and knew where he lived, drove other MS-13 members, who were armed with two 9mm handguns, to Lainez-Murcia’s house and dropped them off.  When Lainez-Murcia left the house and got into his car, the other MS-13 members approached and fired multiple times, killing Lainez-Murcia.  The other MS-13 members ran down the block where Amaya-Sanchez picked them up and drove them away.

Further, the indictment charges Castellanos in connection with the June 30, 2015, murder of 16 year-old Cardona-Hernandez, whom the MS-13 members believed was associated with a rival gang.  On the night of the murder, Castellanos and other MS-13 members drove Cardona-Hernandez to Nicoll Avenue in Central Islip, where they shot and killed him using two 9mm handguns.

Finally, Lopez-Alvarado is charged with an April 9, 2013 attempted murder of a man on Benton Place in Bay Shore.  Lopez-Alvarado, who was a new member of the MS-13, and another MS-13 member went out looking to kill a rival gang member in order for Lopez-Alvarado to gain full status in the gang.  When they observed a group of men who they assumed were members of the Bloods, Lopez-Alvarado and his co-conspirator retrieved the same .25 caliber handgun and 20-gauge shotgun used in the Mayes and Russell murders, drove back to Benton Place, approached the group of men and opened fire.  One man was struck and was subsequently transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and survived the shooting.

This is the latest indictment 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 on federal racketeering charges for participating in murders, attempted murders, and assaults.  Since 2010 alone, this Office has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 30 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, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, and Rockville Centre Police Department.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco at the federal courthouse in Central Islip.  The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Paul G. Scotti, and Raymond A. Tierney are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendants:

Edwin amaya-sanchez (“Strong”)
Age:  29
Brentwood, New York

William castellanos (“Dizzy” and “Satanico”)
Age:  19
Central Islip, New York

JHONNY CONTRERAS (“Reaper”)
Age:  22
Brentwood, New York

REYNALDO LOPEZ-ALVARADO (“Mente”)
Age:  24
Brentwood, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-403 (JMA/JFB)

Topic: 
Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Updated September 1, 2016