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Transnational Gangs
03/03/2011

MS-13 gang members and associates from Long Island indicted on federal murder and racketeering charges

Charges include 9 murders in 3 New York counties between May 2008 and March 2010

NEW YORK - Twenty-five members and associates of the MS-13 street gang were charged Thursday in a 70-count, superseding indictment in the Eastern District of New York as part of an ongoing investigation by federal and state law enforcement agencies into criminal gang activity in three New York counties.

The charges detailed in the new indictment range from murder, assault with dangerous weapons, witness tampering and retaliation, extortion, narcotics trafficking, firearms offenses and obstruction of justice. All of the defendants are currently in custody and will be arraigned next week at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, NY.

The newly unsealed court documents charge the following:

  • Adalberto Ariel Guzman, Rene Mendez Mejia, and Heriberto Martinez are charged in connection with the execution-style murders of Vanessa Argueta, a 19-year-old woman, and her 2-year-old son, Diego Torres, in Central Islip on February 5, 2010. The bodies of Argueta and Torres were found in a secluded wooded area and Argueta had been shot in the head and chest. The toddler was shot twice in the head.
  • David Valle and Yonis Acosta-Yanes are charged in connection with the May 5, 2008, murder of Santos Castillo-Martinez in Hempstead, New York.
  • Valle and Louis Ruiz are charged in connection with the October 22, 2009, murder of Jairo Vasquez in Garden City, New York.
  • Franklin Villatoro and Yobany Calderon are charged in connection with the December 12, 2009, murder of 16-year-old Erick Avalos in Hempstead.

The indictment announced Thursday also:

  • adds charges relating to attempted murders, assaults with dangerous weapons, and conspiracies to murder or assault rival gang members.
  • charges Valle, Ruiz, Villatoro and Elenilson Ortiz with attempting to extort money, drugs, and commissary items from other inmates at the Nassau County Correctional Center while incarcerated.
  • charges Francisco Ramos with conspiring to murder three individuals he believed were going to testify against him and his co-defendants in connection with a series of assaults that took place on September 14, 2008, at the Antojitos Salvadoreno Bar in Hempstead.

Prior indictments in this case charged MS-13 members and associates with four additional murders including the:

  • May 26, 2009, murder of Dexter Acheampong in Central Islip;
  • February 17, 2010, murder of David Sandler in Brentwood, New York;
  • March 6, 2010, murder of Nestor Moreno in Hempstead; and
  • March 17, 2010, murder of Mario Alberto Canton Quijada in Far Rockaway, New York.

"This crackdown on transnational gangs demonstrates law enforcement's commitment to stopping the escalating violence linked to gang activity," said James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement HSI in New York. "Removing alleged gang members from the streets will ensure that they are no longer in a position to wreak havoc in our neighborhoods and threaten the public's safety."

"The crimes alleged in this indictment demonstrate the ruthless violence the MS-13 street gang has unleashed on the neighborhoods of Long Island," said Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "We will continue to respond to the MS-13's brutal violence with unwavering investigation and prosecution. If gang members commit violent crimes on Long Island, they will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

This superseding indictment is the latest in a series of indictments by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York prosecuting members of the MS-13, a violent international street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The MS-13 is the largest street gang on Long Island, New York. Over the past decade, more than 120 MS-13 members, including the leaders of a number of the MS-13 cliques on Long Island, have been arrested and convicted on federal felony charges in this district, including federal racketeering and murder charges.

HSI is a member of the Long Island gang task force led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In addition to HSI and FBI, it includes officers with the Nassau County police department, Nassau County Sheriff's department, Suffolk County police department, Hempstead Village police department and the New York State Police.

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of at least 20 years, and up to life in prison. The defendants charged with the murders each face mandatory life in prison or the death penalty. The charges contained in the superseding indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.