NEW YORK – A member of the violent street gang La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) was arrested Thursday for allegedly shooting a 19-year-old Long Island man he believed was cooperating with law enforcement. The arrest and indictment are the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Special agents arrested Milton Contreras, 19, aka “Diabolico,” in Kansas City, Kansas, where he was arraigned.
A federal grand jury indicted, Contreras, along with previously-charged co-defendants, Byron Lopez and Oscar Welman Espinoza-Merino, with conspiracy to commit murder in-aid-of racketeering, murder in-aid-of racketeering, obstruction-of-justice murder, and firearms offenses. If convicted, the defendant will face mandatory life imprisonment.
As alleged in court documents, Contreras is a member of the Brentwood, Long Island chapter of the violent street gang MS-13. On Feb. 25, 2014, Contreras, Espinoza-Merino, and Lopez 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 federal law enforcement. After Valverde traveled to 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 indictment of Contreras is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York targeting members of the MS-13, a violent international street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras. With numerous chapters, or “cliques,” throughout the United States, MS-13 has a significant presence in Queens and is the largest street gang in Long Island.
Since 2003, more than 250 MS-13 members, including dozens of clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. More than 150 of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges. Since 2010 alone, this office has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 20 murders in the Eastern District of New York and has convicted more than 35 MS-13 members in connection with those murders.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Darren A. LaVerne and Alixandra E. Smith are prosecuting this case.