Defendant and Co-Conspirator Also Opened Fire at a Group Gathered Outside a House
Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Nelson Argueta-Quintanilla, a member of the Sailors Locos Salvatruchas Westside (Sailors) clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges relating to his participation in the murder of Oscar Acosta, the attempted murder of suspected rival gang members and a conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana. The guilty plea was entered before United States Circuit Judge Joseph F. Bianco.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Stuart Cameron, Acting Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), announced the guilty plea.
“With today’s guilty plea, the defendant, a member of the notorious MS-13, admits to being an active participant in a brutal murder in which the victim was viciously stabbed with a machete after being beaten, bound and thrown in the trunk of a car. In addition, compounding his wanton disregard for human life, the defendant also admits to attempting to murder rival gang members by approaching the outside of a home where they were standing and opening fire on them,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis. “This Office and the Long Island Gang Task Force are deeply committed to dismantling the MS-13 and eliminating the threat of their senseless violence from our communities.”
“This guilty plea will ensure that yet another violent member of MS-13, who has no regard for human life, will be imprisoned for his senseless, brutal crimes,” stated SCPD Acting Commissioner Cameron said. “I would like to commend the Long Island Gang Task Force and Eastern District of New York for their unwavering commitment to holding gang members accountable and keeping our residents safe. We will continue to combine resources to rid our communities of gang violence.”
As set forth in prior court filings and the defendant’s statements during his guilty plea, Argueta-Quintanilla and other MS-13 members decided to kill Acosta in 2016 because they suspected that he was associating with the rival 18th Street gang. The Sailors clique leader assigned roles as to which members would take the lead in planning and carrying out the murder. On April 29, 2016, Argueta-Quintanilla and other MS-13 members encountered Acosta in a wooded area near an elementary school in Brentwood where he was lured under the guise of smoking marijuana. Argueta-Quintanilla and the other MS-13 members brutally beat Acosta with tree limbs, knocking him unconscious. Then they tied Acosta’s hands and feet, wrapped an article of clothing around his mouth, to prevent him from making noise and summoned other MS-13 members. The MS-13 members loaded Acosta into the trunk of a car and drove to a more secluded area in Brentwood near an abandoned psychiatric hospital. They took Acosta, who was still alive, out of the car and carried him into the woods where they stabbed and slashed him to death with a machete. The MS-13 members buried Acosta’s body in a shallow grave, which was discovered in September 2016.
In addition, on August 10, 2016, Argueta-Quintanilla and other MS-13 members attempted to kill suspected rival gang members in Brentwood. Argueta-Quintanilla and another MS-13 member, both of whom were armed with handguns, approached a house on Lukens Avenue where the suspected rival gang members were standing outside and fired numerous shots in their direction. No one was struck, but a stray bullet entered a neighbor’s house and struck the headboard of a bed in which the neighbor was sleeping. Argueta-Quintanilla also pleaded guilty to participating in a drug conspiracy, admitting that between April 2016 and October 2017, he and other members of the Sailors clique conspired to distribute cocaine and marijuana to raise money for the MS-13.
Today’s conviction 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 the MS-13, a violent, transnational criminal organization. The MS-13’s leadership is based in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, but the gang has thousands of members across the United States, comprised primarily of immigrants from Central America. With numerous branches, or “cliques,” the MS-13 is the most violent criminal organization on Long Island. Since 2003, hundreds of MS-13 members, including dozens of clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. A majority of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges for participating in murders, attempted murders and assaults. Since 2010, this Office has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 60 murders in the Eastern District of New York and has convicted dozens of MS-13 leaders and members in connection with those murders. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, which is comprised of agents and officers of the FBI, SCPD, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation Office, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, the New York State Police, the Hempstead Police Department, the Rockville Centre Police Department and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Paul G. Scotti, Justina L. Geraci and Megan E. Farrell are in charge of the prosecution.
NELSON ARGUETA-QUINTANILLA (also known as “Mendigo”)
Brentwood, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-403 (S-7)(JFB)