Seventeen alleged members of the international criminal gang MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, were indicted by the Nassau County district attorney on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and trafficking on Thursday. At 3:30 p.m., seven of the 17 were escorted into County Court in Mineola.
According to James Hunt, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s special agent in charge, those arrested included the highest-level MS-13 leader in the Northeast, though officials had not identified him as of late Thursday afternoon.
The 21-count indictment charges the defendants with a variety of crimes, including murder, drug trafficking and conspiracy. All 17 defendants face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the top charges, according to the D.A.’s office.
Two of the defendants, David Sosa Guevara, 26, and Victor Lopez, 29, are charged with murdering Angel Soler, 16 of Roosevelt, on July 21. They allegedly buried Soler’s body in a wooded area near the Baldwin-Roosevelt border, where it was found on Oct. 19.
The arrests also follow the grim discovery of the remains of Javier Castillo, 19, of Central Islip, in Cow Meadow Park in Freeport on Oct. 25, and Kerin Pineda, 15, in a wooded area between Freeport and Merrick, just north of the Long Island Rail Road tracks that run parallel to Sunrise Highway, on Oct. 27. The teens’ murders were suspected to be MS-13-related, but none of the men arrested have been named in connection to them.
Last May, the Nassau County D.A.’s office joined a DEA investigation of alleged criminal activity of a number of MS-13 “cliques” — subgroups of the gang — in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Texas. The Long Island cliques — said to be operating in Freeport, Glen Cove, Hempstead, Central Islip, Greenport, Roosevelt and Uniondale — are alleged to be under direct leadership of MS-13 members in El Salvador.
The investigation also turned up several kilograms of heroin allegedly trafficked internationally by gang members on Long Island and elsewhere. Officials said that the street value of the drugs is approximately $1 million. The indictment includes a number of counts of cocaine and heroin trafficking in Nassau, Suffolk and Bronx counties as well as in New Jersey, Maryland and Texas.
“This massive multi-agency investigation laid bare the global size, complexity and brutality of MS-13, and these indictments strike a heavy blow to the gang’s operations on Long Island,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. “These alleged gang members have terrorized vulnerable immigrant communities [and] trafficked deadly heroin into our neighborhoods, and this coalition of more than 22 agencies nationwide will continue to be unrelenting in our efforts to dismantle MS-13.”
Timothy Denton contributed to this story.