NEW YORK — Three members of the notorious MS-13 gang were sentenced Feb. 15 following an investigation and subsequent arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York working jointly with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, New York Field Division (ATF), the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD). The men lured the victim from Queens to Long Island and shot him having believed he was cooperating with law enforcement.
Milton Contreras, Oscar Welman Espinoza-Merino and Jose Osmin Rubio were each sentenced in Brooklyn federal court following their convictions for the murder of a 19-year-old victim on Long Island in 2014. Contreras was sentenced to 27 years’ imprisonment, while Espinoza-Merino and Osmin Rubio were each sentenced to more than 24 years’ imprisonment. After serving their sentences, all three defendants will face deportation from the United States.
“Today’s sentence marks the final chapter in the pursuit of justice against these three MS-13 gang members who brutally murdered a teenager execution-style when they suspected him of cooperating with law enforcement,” stated United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Richard Donoghue. “This prosecution is part of the ongoing mission of this Office to protect the residents of this district from the violence and lawlessness of MS-13, and we will not rest until the MS-13 criminal organization is entirely dismantled.”
“The individuals that committed this heinous act of violence are rightfully where they belong. While in prison, they can reflect on the terror and pain they inflicted on their community. Gangs like MS-13 that seek to terrorize the community putting citizens at fear for their lives should know that law enforcement is committed to rooting this evil from our society and making the streets safe for everyone,” stated ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Benedict. “I would like to express my gratitude to the United States Attorney for prosecuting the case. I also would like to thank the Special Agents and Task Force Officers of the ATF’s Joint Firearms Task Force and our counterparts at HSI and the NYPD for diligently pursuing this case until justice was served.”
As detailed in the superseding indictment, the three defendants — along with a fourth defendant convicted of the murder, Byron Lopez, who has not yet been sentenced — are members of the Jamaica, Queens and/or Brentwood, Long Island chapters of the violent street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as “MS-13.” On February 25, 2014, Lopez, Espinoza-Merino, Contreras and Rubio directed the victim, fellow gang member Sidney Valverde, to travel to Long Island under the false pretense that they needed him to assist in gang business there. In fact, the co-conspirators planned to kill Valverde because they believed that he was providing information about the gang’s activities to law enforcement. After Valverde arrived in Long Island, the co-conspirators shot him in the back of the head and left his body on Miller Place Beach in Suffolk County where it was discovered by a beachcomber approximately two weeks later.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorney Alixandra Smith is in charge of the prosecution.
As part of Operation Community Shield, HSI has effected more than 4,300 criminal arrests and nearly 3,000 civil immigration arrests of MS-13 leaders, members and associates, including criminal arrests for Racketeering Influence Corrupt Organizations (RICO), Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) and gang conspiracy violations investigated by HSI New York, HSI Long Island, HSI Baltimore, HSI DC, HSI Charlotte, HSI Newark, HSI Boston, HSI San Francisco, HSI San Jose, HSI Los Angeles, HSI Detroit, HSI Nashville, HSI Houston, and our state and local law enforcement partners.
In October 2012, HSI worked with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to designate MS-13 as the first transnational criminal street gang as a TCO. As a result of the designation, any property or property interests in the United States, or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which MS-13 has an interest, are blocked.
HSI’s National Gang Unit
HSI’s National Gang Unit oversees HSI’s expansive transnational gang portfolio and enables special agents to bring the fight to these criminal enterprises through the development of uniform enforcement and intelligence-sharing strategies.
To report suspicious activity, call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or visit www.ice.gov.