NEW YORK – An indictment unsealed Thursday charges a gang member with conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering; murder in aid of racketeering; obstruction of justice murder; and firearms offenses. The indictment results from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives and Firearms (ATF), and the New York City Police Department (NYPD).
If convicted, Byron Lopez, aka Viruz, 23, will face mandatory life imprisonment. Lopez was arrested Thursday and presented for arraignment at the United States Courthouse in Brooklyn.
"Today’s arrest of Byron Lopez, a member of the violent MS-13 street gang who is alleged to have coordinated the murder of a fellow gang member and other violent crimes, is yet another step in the efforts of law enforcement to attack the leadership of MS-13 and put an end to their menacing criminal conduct," said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. “HSI is proud of its partnerships with law enforcement agencies in Suffolk County, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York that further investigations against violent criminal street gangs that present significant threats to public safety."
“This office has a long history of prosecuting and convicting members of the MS-13 gang, which for years has pursued its particularly brutal brand of violence and lawlessness in neighborhoods throughout Queens and Long Island,” said Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “This prosecution, which brings another member of the gang to justice for a murder that disrupted one of our communities earlier this year, is part of our ongoing mission to dismantle MS-13 wherever and whenever it rears its head in this district.” Lynch thanked the Suffolk County Police Department for its assistance with the investigation.
As alleged in court documents, Lopez is a member of the Jamaica, Queens, chapter of the violent street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13. On Feb. 25, Lopez and other members of the gang 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, Lopez and his co-conspirators planned to kill Valverde because they believed he was providing information about the gang’s activities to federal law enforcement. After Valverde traveled to Long Island, the 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 Lopez is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York targeting members of MS-13, a violent international street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras. With numerous chapters, or cliques, through 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, Eastern District prosecutors have obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 20 murders in the Eastern District of New York, and have convicted more than 35 MS-13 members in connection with those murders.