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Justice News

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

Friday, March 22, 2013

Two MS-13 Street Gang Members Convicted In Federal Court On Racketeering, Murder And Firearms Charges

Heriberto Martinez (a.k.a. “Boxer”) And Carlos Ortega (a.k.a. “Silencio”) Participated In The Murder Of 4 Individuals On Queens And Long Island As Part Of Their Membership In The Gang


Following six weeks of trial, a federal jury in Central Islip today returned a verdict convicting Salvadoran street gang members, Heriberto Martinez, also known as “Boxer,” and Carlos Ortega, also known as “Silent” or “Silencio,” on federal criminal charges, including murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, firearms offenses, and conspiracy. Both defendants are facing mandatory life sentences as a result of their convictions. Sentencing is scheduled for September 10, 2013 before United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco.

The convictions were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, George Venizelos, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, and Thomas V. Dale, Commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department.

At trial, the government proved that the defendants Martinez and Ortega, along with their fellow MS-13 gang members, killed multiple victims between February and March of 2010:

(1) Martinez was convicted in connection with the execution-style murder of Vanessa Argueta, a 19-year-old woman, in Central Islip, New York, on February 5, 2010. Martinez also was convicted of being an accessory after-the-fact in the murder of Argueta and her 2-year-old son, Diego Torres, who was shot and killed during the same incident. Martinez , the leader of the Coronados Clique of the MS-13, authorized the murder of Argueta and then helped three of his co-conspirators evade arrest in New York and flee to El Salvador after the commission of the murders. The bodies of Argueta and Torres were found in a secluded wooded area in Central Islip. Argueta had been shot in the head and chest, and Torres had been shot twice in the head.

(2) Ortega was convicted in connection with the murder of 21-year-old David Sandler and the attempted murder of 20-year-old Aaron Galan in Brentwood, New York on February 17, 2010. Ortega and his fellow MS-13 gang members lured Sandler, whom the MS-13 believed was a member of the rival Latin Kings street gang, to Timberline Drive in Brentwood, under the pretext of wanting to buy marijuana from him. Once Sandler arrived, Ortega shot him in the face at close range, killing him. Ortega also shot Sandler’s close friend, Galan, who was with Sandler at the time, in the face. Miraculously, Galan survived.

(3) Martinez also was convicted in connection with the execution-style murder of 23-year-old Nestor Moreno, a security guard at El Rancho Bar and Grill in Hempstead, New York on March 6, 2010. In late February 2010, Heriberto Martinez and several other members of the MS-13 were involved in a dispute with El Rancho employees over an unpaid bar tab. The dispute escalated into a physical altercation during which Martinez was sprayed with pepper spray. Prior to leaving El Rancho, Martinez identified himself as an MS-13 member to the victim and told him, “It’s not going to end like this.” On March 6, 2010, Martinez, along with four co-conspirators, returned to El Rancho and carried out that threat, shooting Moreno in the head at point-blank range. The gun that Martinez used to kill Moreno was the same semi-automatic handgun used to kill Argueta and her son, one month earlier.

(4) Both Martinez and Ortega were convicted in the March 17, 2010 murder of Mario Alberto Canton Quijada in Far Rockaway, New York. Quijada, who was a fellow member of the MS-13, was killed because of his reluctance to “put in work,” or attack rival gang members on behalf of the MS-13. On March 17, 2010, Quijada was lured to the beach in Far Rockaway under the guise of attacking rival gang members. Once alone on the beach, the MS-13 gang members tried to shoot Quijada in the head with the same semi-automatic handgun used in murders of Moreno, and Argueta and her son. However, the gun jammed. Undeterred, Martinez, Ortega and the other MS-13 members set upon Quijada with knifes and machetes and hacked him to death.

The convictions of Martinez and Ortega are the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by this Office targeting New York members of the MS-13, a violent international street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. With numerous branches, or “cliques,” the MS-13 is the largest street gang on Long Island. Since 2002, more than 200 MS-13 members, including more that two dozen clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. More than 50 of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges. Seventeen of those defendants have received sentences of 10 years or more, and more than a dozen MS-13 defendants have been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing on murder convictions. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI Long Island Gang Task Force, comprised of agents and officers of the FBI, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and the Rockville Centre Police Department.

“Instead of working to lift up their immigrant community, Martinez and Ortega chose to join the killing machine known as MS-13,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “They devoted their energies to spreading senseless violence through the neighborhoods of Long Island, destroying their victims’ lives and the peace in the community. The range of victims, from a bouncer doing his job, to the cases of mistaken identity, to the fellow gang member who didn’t want to kill, to a young mother and her toddler, underscores these defendants’ callous disregard for human life. They will soon spend the rest of their own lives contemplating the choices they made. This case demonstrates the on-going commitment of this Office and the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force to combat the violence perpetrated by the MS-13 and other gangs.” Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to each of the law enforcement agencies for their assistance in this case.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos stated, “The wanton disregard for human life displayed by Martinez and Ortega is a graphic reminder of why MS-13 poses a threat to public safety on Long Island. The crimes for which they have been convicted include four murders committed in a six-week period in 2010. The FBI will continue to place a high priority on policing and curtailing gang violence on Long Island.”

Nassau County Police Commissioner Dale stated, “ In Nassau County we have zero tolerance for gang activity. These two defendants are particularly vicious gang members who were brought to justice by the Long Island Gang Task Force and the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. The Nassau County Police Department’s participation in this task force is critical for ensuring that the most dangerous predators will be removed from our communities.”

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Raymond A. Tierney and Carrie N. Capwell.

The Defendants:

Heriberto Martinez, also known as “Boxer”
Age: 26

Carlos Ortega, also known as “Silencio” and “Silent”
Age: 23

Firearms Offenses
Updated September 1, 2016