Following a broad investigation into the operations of the MS-13 gang, Nassau County officials announced that 41 of its alleged members were indicted on June 15 for multiple acts of violence and conspiracy in Nassau County over the last four years.
The 85-count indictment includes conspiracy, attempted murder, assault, weapons possession and other charges. Thirty-five of the defendants face up to 25 years-to-life in prison if convicted.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said that immediately after a December 2016 takedown of alleged members of the Salvadorians with Pride gang, the county dedicated more resources to investigate MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha. The investigation uncovered disturbing initiation and membership practices, i.e. a person must be beaten for at least 13 seconds by initiated members in order to be an accepted. Accepted candidates must agree to participate in assaults, stabbings, shootings and other acts of violence at the direction of older gang members, and must kill someone when directed.
Recruitment for MS-13 starts as early as middle school, officials said. Usually, a unwilling candidate will be threatened until the child gives in and joins. MS-13 members have been known to flash machetes and guns to kids they are looking to intimidate and recruit, and will threaten physical harm to them and their families.
“MS-13 is an exceptionally violent organization, whose members will not hesitate to commit heinous crimes in furtherance of the gang’s criminal objectives,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations New York. “These arrests are yet another positive step towards eliminating the intimidation, fear and violence perpetrated against the public at large by these gangs.”
Among the defendants were Evilson Orellana, 19, Francisco Romero, 18, and Cesar David Avila-Rodriguez, 17, who attacked four victims in Hempstead Lake State Park in May 2016 with large knives and machetes, repeatedly slashing the teenagers. All three defendants are from Hempstead.
Thirty-two of the 41 violent incidents and conspiracy counts span more than four years, from March 31, 2013 through June 2, 2017. A total of 13 violent incidents in Hempstead, nine in Uniondale, four in Westbury, three in Inwood and elsewhere in the county were cited in the indictment. Multiple incidents alleged the use of a machete or handgun.
Of those indicted, 17 entered the country as unaccompanied children, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The June 15 indictment comes on the heels of the conviction of Eric Smith, 29, a Roosevelt resident and a ranking member of the Rollin’ 60s Crips gang. Smith was found guilty of murder in-aid-of racketeering, drug trafficking and multiple robberies on June 15. Smith participated in a dozen shootings of rival gang members or their homes, and evidence showed that he shot a man outside a busy nightclub in Freeport, and brazenly shot rivals on residential streets. He faces life imprisonment.
The government’s investigation into the Crips has led to the arrest and conviction of more than 20 of the gang’s members and associates, including its founder Raphael Osborne, since June 2016.