NEW YORK—Twelve alleged members of the La Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13, street gang were indicted by a Queens County grand jury Tuesday on various charges including attempted murder and conspiracy, in addition to drug and weapons charges. This following an investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York and the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Queens South Gang Squad working with the Queens District Attorney’s Office. Top leaders are accused of plotting to kill a rival gang member and planning the execution of a man who left the MS-13 gang, investigators recovered guns and drugs during this takedown.
The long-term investigation utilized various investigative techniques, including court-authorized wiretaps, video and physical surveillance, the gang members allegedly discussed their plans to kill two individuals and to burglarize a home where they believed $80,000 could be taken.
“The NYPD, in close cooperation with our partners at Homeland Security Investigations and the Queens District Attorney’s Office, are making New Yorkers safer by focusing our significant resources on the relatively small percentage of criminals responsible for much of our city’s crime and disorder. Neither the law-enforcement community nor the people we serve will stand for our neighborhoods to be overrun with illegal drugs, guns, and associated gang violence. We are sharing the responsibility for public safety and making our way forward, together,” said NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill.
“This was a long-term investigation that not only thwarted a plot to kill an individual – a man trying to remove himself from this vicious street gang – but also resulted in taking would-be killers off our neighborhood streets. Gang violence, intimidation and out-right ruthless brutality will not be tolerated in this county. These indictments are another example of how law enforcement and prosecutors can and will work together to stop the senseless killings in our communities,” said Queens District Attorney, Richard A. Brown.
Queens DA Brown identified one of the main defendants as Jorge “Terrible” Andrade, 35, who is named in two of the three indictments handed up by a Queens grand jury. The 12 defendants – who range in age from 20 to 35 – are alleged to have conspired to kill two people - a rival member of the Latin Kings and a former member of MS-13. Defendants, Josue “Colocho” Levia, 21, Angel “Chamuco” Romero, 20, and Ramiro “Caramalo” Gutierrez, 26, are charged in the third indictment with plotting a home invasion in Kew Garden Hill neighborhood of Queens. (See Addendum for details on each defendant).
According to charges in the first indictment, Andrade and six others plotted to avenge the shooting and wounding of two reputed members of the MS-13 gang. On June 23, 2018, two men were fired on outside a bar on Sutphin Boulevard. An alleged member of the Latin Kings was apprehended for the shooting. The day after that incident, Andrade and other reputed members of MS-13 were heard on wiretaps planning a hit on the Latin Kings to retaliate. The gang members actually conducted their own surveillance of targets, accessed firearms and discussed locations for the hit, including the Rufus King Park in Jamaica, Queens. In August 2018, Andrade allegedly took photos of the target’s car and revealed his plan to other gang members to beat the rival Latin King member with a baseball bat.
According to the second indictment, when Andrade and other members of the MS-13 gang learned that one of their own had blacked out his distinctive MS-13 tattoo and had disassociated himself with the gang, they plotted to kill him. Again, before striking, the gang members allegedly watched the former member and reported back to higher-ups in the gang. Through wiretaps, investigators overheard defendant Levia allegedly discussing retrieving weapons for the hit and when the time and location were revealed, law enforcement raced to the scene and got there possibly preventing a murder. Police executed a court-authorized search warrant and recovered a loaded .357 revolver and a .32 caliber firearm. Police also allegedly found cocaine and marijuana at the 118th Street location.
Furthermore, according to the charges, Gutierrez, Levia and Romero conspired to burglarize a home in the Kew Gardens Hill neighborhood of Queens. On Feb. 18 and 19 of this year, the three defendants discussed their plans to steal $80,000 in cash believed to be in the home. Police overheard the discussions and thwarted the home invasion.
Additional arrests made in regards to this investigation include two accused MS-13 gang members who were taken into custody in regards to a metal pipe attack on two individuals on Sep. 1, 2018. Romero and co-defendant Steven Rivas, 24, are alleged to have beaten the two victims with a pipe and are currently charged in a criminal complaint with assault.
This case is being prosecuted out of the Queens DA Office’s Gang Violence and Hate Crimes Bureau. It should be noted that an indictment and a criminal complaint are merely accusations and that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.