New Charges Include the September 2009 Slaying of a Grocery Store Employee During an Armed Robbery
Earlier today, a 50-count second superseding indictment was unsealed at the United States Courthouse in Central Islip, New York, charging 11 members and associates of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13 street gang, with multiple murders, attempted murders, assaults with dangerous weapons, armed robberies, and related firearms and conspiracy offenses. The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Mary Galligan, Acting Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.
Ten of the defendants are in custody and are scheduled to be arraigned on this superseding indictment at 11:00 a.m. today before United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco. This indictment adds five new defendants—Edwin Acosta-Martinez, Edwin Hernandez, Mario Rodriguez-Chinchilla, Walter Velasquez-Cruz, and a fifth individual whose identity remains under seal at this time (the “co-defendant”)—and charges relating to the September 12, 2009 armed robbery of Los Hermanos Grocery and the murder of 57 year-old Miguel Peralta in Brentwood, New York; the October 23, 2011 attempted murder of two suspected rival gang members in Central Islip, New York; and seven additional armed robberies, which took place in Suffolk County between December 2009 and February 2012. Specifically:
■Joyser Velasquez, Francisco Ponce and the co-defendant are charged with the armed robbery of Los Hermanos Grocery and the murder of Miguel Peralta. Asdetailed in court filings, Velasquez and the co-defendant, armed with handguns, entered the store, while Ponce waited as the getaway driver. Peralta, who was sweeping a storeroom in the back of the store, heard the commotion, entered the front of the store, and came face to face with Velasquez, who shot him once in the side. Peralta then ran down an aisle where he was confronted by the co-defendant, who shot him in the head. The robbers then rifled through the cash register, took cash and checks, and fled. Velasquez, Ponce, and the co-defendant are also charged with several other armed robberies, including the December 27, 2009 armed robbery of a Burger King restaurant in Bay Shore.
■Hernandez is charged with two attempted murders and assaults with dangerous weapons, which took place on October 23, 2011, on Clift Street in Central Islip. That evening, Hernandez, who was a new member of the Brentwood clique of the MS-13, was directed to murder a rival gang member in order to gain full status within the clique. Hernandez and another MS-13 member armed themselves with a .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun and 9mm semi-automatic handgun and drove around Central Islip looking for rival gang members. On Clift Street, Hernandez and the other MS-13 member observed a group of African-Americans whom they believed were members of the Bloods street gang. Hernandez and the other MS-13 member approached the group and opened fire. Two men were struck and were subsequently transported to local hospitals. Both victims survived.
■Acosta-Martinez, Rodriguez-Chinchilla, and Velasquez-Cruz are charged in connection with a series of robberies that took place in Suffolk County between January and February 2012, including: the armed robberies of the Lempa Deli in Central Islip on January 4, 2012; the Off the Track Quick Mart in Babylon on January 6, 2012; the Iglesia Universal Church in Brentwood on January 11, 2012; the Chapi Deli in Huntington Station on January 26, 2012; the Mi Tierrita restaurant in Brentwood on February 13, 2012; and the Health-Mart Pharmacy in Bay Shore on February 28, 2012.
The indictment announced today includes the charges from the underlying indictments against Jose Alvarenga, Hector Torres, Jonathan Ayala, Edwin Molina, Ponce, and Velasquez, relating to: a July 24, 2008 murder conspiracy and assault with a dangerous weapon in Timberline Park in Brentwood; the February 15, 2009 armed robbery of Pollo Campero restaurant in Lindenhurst; the October 4, 2009 murder of Luis Castro in Huntington; the November 20, 2009 murder of Christopher Hamilton in Brentwood; the December 19, 2009 armed robbery of Wilson Express Corp., a check cashing and money transfer business in Patchogue; a January 2010 conspiracy to rob a McDonald’s restaurant in Smithtown; the August 31, 2010 murder of Rigoberto Gomez in Brentwood; the September 2010 murder of Bayron Vasquez-Nunez in Brentwood; and January 2012 firearms charges.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. In addition, Alvarenga, Ponce, Torres, Velasquez, Molina, and the co-defendant each face mandatory life in prison or possibly the death penalty.
“For years, members of the MS-13 street gang have terrorized communities across Long Island. As charged in this new indictment, the defendants cut a swath of terror and wanton violence victimizing innocent citizens across Suffolk County,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “This office and the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force will continue to prioritize combating gang violence on Long Island.”
FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge Galligan stated, “The allegations in the new indictment confirm the ongoing threat posed by MS-13. Despite a decade’s extraordinary effort by the Long Island Gang Task Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the hundreds of convictions already obtained, MS-13 members continue to commit murder and mayhem seemingly without regard for human life. The new charges include the cold-blooded murder of an innocent grocery store employee during one of several violent armed robberies in Suffolk County. So long as MS-13 and other gangs pose a threat to public safety, the efforts of the FBI and the task force will persist.”
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Raymond A. Tierney, and Carrie N. Capwell.
The charges announced today are the latest in a series of indictments by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York against members of the MS-13, a violent international street gang. Over the past decade, more than 200 MS-13 members, including the leaders of a number of the MS-13 cliques on Long Island, have been arrested and convicted on federal felony charges in this district, including federal racketeering and murder charges. These prosecutions are the result of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, comprising agents and officers of the FBI, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, the United States Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, and the Suffolk County Probation Department. U.S. Attorney Lynch commended the detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department, who, until recently, were assigned to the task force, for their tireless efforts and invaluable contributions to this prosecution.
The charges are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
EDWIN ACOSTA-MARTINEZ (a/k/a “Scarface” and “Alejandro”)
JOSE ALVARENGA (a/k/a “Fosforo”)
JONATHAN AYALA (a/k/a “Bang Bang,” “Bam Bam,” and “Duende”)
EDWIN HERNANDEZ (a/k/a “Masacre” and “Scooby”)
EDWIN MOLINA (a/k/a “Trece”)
FRANCISCO PONCE (a/k/a “Spoiler”)
HECTOR TORRES (a/k/a “Smiley”)
JOYSER VELASQUEZ (a/k/a “Baby Boy”)
WALTER VELASQUEZ-CRUZ (a/k/a “Wilmer”)