Earlier today, 12 alleged members and associates of La Mara Salvatrucha, or the “MS-13” street gang, were arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge E. Thomas Boyle, at the United States Courthouse in Central Islip, New York, on federal criminal charges, including murder, assault with dangerous weapons, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, witness tampering, firearms offenses, and conspiracy. Five additional defendants named in the indictment were arraigned earlier this week, also before United States Magistrate Judge Boyle.1 The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco.

The arraignments were announced by Benton J. Campbell, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Joseph M. Demarest, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, and Lawrence W. Mulvey, Commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department.

Four of the defendants, Heriberto Martinez, Vidal Espinal, Roger Alvarado, and Carlos Martinez, are charged with the March 6, 2010, execution-style murder of Nestor Moreno, a security guard at El Rancho Bar and Grill in Hempstead, New York. According to the indictment and other court filings by the government, in late February 2010, Heriberto Martinez and several other members of the MS-13 are alleged to have been involved in a dispute with El Rancho employees over an unpaid bar tab. According to court filings by the government, the dispute escalated into a physical altercation during which Moreno sprayed mace at several of the MS-13 members, including Heriberto Martinez. Prior to leaving El Rancho, one of the MS-13 members yelled at a bar employee, in substance, “watch your back, it’s not going to end like this.” On March 6, 2010, Heriberto Martinez, Espinal, Roger Alvarado, Carlos Martinez, and another individual allegedly returned to El Rancho and carried out that threat. After surveilling Moreno, Espinal, accompanied by other gang members, shot Moreno in the head at point-blank range with a semi-automatic handgun. If convicted, these four defendants face mandatory life in prison, or the death penalty.

The additional 13 defendants are charged with a series of violent crimes, including attempted murder, conspiracies to murder rival gang members, and assaults that resulted in the death of one victim and left several others seriously injured in Nassau County since 2008. One of these defendants, Emilio Saballos, is charged with threatening and attempting to intimidate witnesses to one of the assaults in order to prevent their testimony before the grand jury. If convicted, four of these defendants face up to life imprisonment, four face up to 40 years, and five face up to 20 years.

This superseding indictment is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by this Office targeting New York members of the MS-13, a violent international street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. With numerous branches, or “cliques,” the MS-13 is the largest street gang on Long Island. Since 2002, more than 120 MS-13 members, including more that a dozen clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. More than 50 of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges. Seventeen of those defendants have received sentences of 10 years or more, and more than a dozen MS-13 defendants have been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing on murder convictions. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI Long Island Gang Task Force, comprised of agents and officers of the FBI, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Hempstead Village Police Department, Suffolk County Police Department, New York State Police, and United States Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“The MS-13 street gang represents one of the greatest threats to the safety of our communities on Long Island, and this superseding indictment demonstrates the on-going commitment by this Office and the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force to combat that threat and the violence perpetrated by the MS-13 and other gangs,” stated United States Attorney Campbell. “Gang members are on notice that this is a top priority of our Office.” Mr. Campbell thanked the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office for its invaluable cooperation and assistance during the investigation.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Demarest stated, “Gang violence on Long Island has been on our radar for some time. The Long Island Gang Task Force and our efforts to address gang violence are not new, but we are working with our partners on the Task Force with increased manpower and increased urgency to address current circumstances. The FBI is absolutely committed to policing and preventing gang violence now and in the future.”

Nassau County Police Commissioner Mulvey stated, “ I am proud of our partnership with the federal government to rid our communities of gang violence. These indictments display our steadfast commitment to eradicate this violent conduct and should serve to remind gang members that they will be found, prosecuted, and incarcerated.”

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney John J. Durham.

The Defendants:

YONIS ACOSTA-YANES (a/k/a “Brujita”)
Age: 25

ERICK ALVARADO (a/k/a “Gato Seco”)
Age: 24

ROGER ALVARADO (a/k/a “Michichi”)
Age: 30

VIDAL ESPINAL (a/k/a “Demente”)
Age: 22

CESAR LANDAVERDE (a/k/a “Flaco” and “Rebelde”)
Age: 22

CARLOS MARTINEZ (a/k/a “Carlito”)
Age: 19

Age: 23

Age: 37

DIEGO NINOS (a/k/a “Veneno” and “Mico”)
Age: 22

ELENILSON ORTIZ (a/k/a “Shorty”)
Age: 29

GIOVANNI PRADO (a/k/a “Joker”)
Age: 25

FRANCISCO RAMOS (a/k/a “Cruiser”)
Age: 20

WALTER REYES (a/k/a “Scrappy”)
Age: 20

LUIS RUIZ (a/k/a “Chucky”)
Age: 20

EMILIO SABALLOS (a/k/a “Caballo”)
Age: 27

DAVID VALLE (a/k/a “Niño” and “Oreo”)
Age: 19

EFRAIN ZUNIGA (a/k/a “Panico”)
Age: 28


1The charges announced today are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.