NEW YORK – The former leader of the Flushing, Queens, chapter of the violent international gang La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, pleaded guilty Thursday to racketeering and murder conspiracy charges. This plea stems from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Yonkers (N.Y.) Police Department.
As part of his plea, Hector Aleman Lemos, 32, agreed to a sentence of 30 years in federal prison.
According to the indictment and other court filings, Lemos, aka Diablito, was alleged to have been the leader of a chapter of the gang that committed a series of violent crimes including: murder, murder conspiracy and attempted murder, in Flushing, Queens, and elsewhere. Among other crimes, Lemos was charged with murdering 25-year-old John Halley in Yonkers. Lemos believed – incorrectly – that Halley was a member of a rival gang when he shot him on the street. As part of his plea, Lemos admitted that he was a member of MS-13 and that he participated in the murder of Halley, as well as the shooting of a 13-year-old boy who had been standing on the stoop of a house in Flushing that Lemos believed to be a rival gang location.
This conviction is the latest of the more than 120 convictions of MS-13 soldiers and leaders in the Eastern District of New York over the past decade. MS-13 is a violent, transnational gang based in El Salvador, which has engaged in narcotics trafficking, robbery, extortion, murder and other crimes in cities throughout the United States and Central America. The gang has had a strong presence in immigrant communities in Queens and Long Island.
"The defendant in this case indiscriminately brought or threatened violence against rival gang members and innocent civilians alike," said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. "HSI is proud to continue to partner with the United States attorney's office to target violent transnational gang members who threaten the safety of New York communities."
"Lemos was the leader of a gang that turned our streets into a shooting gallery, and killed innocent bystanders in its bid to dominate the streets," said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch, Eastern District of New York. "Lemos's conviction underscores this Office's ongoing commitment to eradicating MS-13's influence in our communities and seeking justice for the gang's victims and their families. We will continue to vigorously prosecute members of the gang and work to dismantle its operations in this district."
Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the Yonkers Police Department for its invaluable assistance in this investigation.