County police, D.A. work to ‘dismantle’ MS-13

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One-time Freeporter Angel Soler was allegedly killed by members of Mara Salvatrucha, otherwise known as MS-13, according to Nassau County police. The 16-year-old rode off on his green bicycle July 2017 but never returned. He was hacked to death with machetes, his body dumped in the woods off the Southern State Parkway, between Baldwin and Roosevelt, where he lived at the time of his death. As of Sept. 6, five men charged with Soler’s death were imprisoned at the Nassau County jail, awaiting indictment or trial. Most recently, on Aug. 22, Dennis Lopez, 18, an alleged member of MS-13, was indicted and charged with second-degree murder in connection with Soler’s death and was due back in court on Sept. 14. According to federal officials, he also went by the name “Maliante,” Spanish slang for “Thug.”
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas has pursued the case from the start, along with Nassau police, the FBI and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. “I’m grateful,” she said, “that the groundbreaking investigative work of my office, the DEA and our partners continues to provide information to help to dismantle MS-13 and to prosecute its members.” The day after Lopez was indicted, on Sept. 7, police arrested Kevin Lopez-Morales, 20, of Roosevelt, and charged him with second-degree murder in connection with Soler’s death. He was a member of the Hollywood “clique,” a Suffolk County-based subgang of MS-13, according to officials. Lopez-Morales was also charged with the murder of Josue Amaya Lenor, 19, of Roosevelt. Amaya Lenor was found in the dense woodland to the east of Frederick Avenue in Roosevelt in May. He, too, was hacked to death with machetes. Both Soler and Amaya Lenor were lured into the woods with the promise of smoking marijuana. Police said they believe seven MS-13 members were involved in Amaya Lenor’s murder, four of whom are also believed to have killed Soler. “We’re still looking to charge more people with Amaya Lenor’s murder,” NCPD Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick said during a Sept 7 news conference at police headquarters in Mineola. Fitzpatrick said that Soler, known as “Chapo,” or Shorty, and Amaya Lenor might have been members of the 18th Street gang, a rival of MS-13. “They were both marked by MS-13,” he said. A third defendant, Josue Antonio Figueroa Velasquez, 18, of Freeport, was arrested by Nassau police in May in connection with Soler’s murder, following the previous arrests of David Sosa Guevara, 26, of Wyandanch, and Victor Lopez, 29, of Roosevelt. Sosa Guevara allegedly led the Hollywood clique, according to documents filed by the U.S. Justice Department in federal court. He was also associated with the Sailors, a Freeport-based clique. He reported to gang leaders in El Salvador, sharing money and information, documents show. The alleged gang members’ arrests stemmed from an investigation that also led to a 21-count indictment unveiled in January that charged 17 MS-13 members and associates with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and drug trafficking in Nassau and nationally. The indictment included the arrest and extradition of the alleged Northeast kingpin of the MS-13, Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, 35, known as “the Reaper.” He was from Laurel, Md., and was arraigned in April. Soler and Leonor Amaya had been friends and classmates at Roosevelt High School. Soler was also a friend of Joshua Aguilar and Kerin Pineda, who had been missing for close to a year before Soler’s disappearance. Aguilar has not been found. Pineda’s remains were discovered in the woods between Freeport and Merrick, near Sunrise Highway, last November. Like Soler and Lenor Amaya, the 19-year-old Freeporter was hacked to death with machetes. MS-13 is also believed to have killed Javier Castillo, of Central Islip, who was found in a shallow grave near a salt marsh at Cow Meadow Park, at the southern end of South Main Street in Freeport, last October. And the remains of Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay, of Valley Stream, were discovered in the Massapequa Preserve, near Seaview and Ocean avenues, in March 2017. Alleged MS-13 member Ruendy Jhonatan Hernandez-Vasquez, 22, of Freeport, also known as “Solido,” or Solid, was arraigned on Aug. 16 before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco at the federal courthouse in Central Islip as part of a 75-count indictment in which more than two dozen members of MS-13 were charged with racketeering and other offenses. According to court documents, Hernandez-Vasquez was charged in connection with Castillo’s murder, along with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana. Castillo was killed in October 2016, after members of MS-13 suspected him of being a member of 18th Street gang, according to authorities. The body of Carlos Rivas-Majano, 22, of Uniondale, was found in the woods behind Kellenberg High School, in East Meadow, in late August. Police arrested alleged MS-13 member Carlos Benitiz-Hernandez on Aug. 30 and charged him with the murder. Rivas-Majano was likely killed in recent months, Fitzpatrick said, but, he added, “A lot of these deaths happened a year or two ago, and we’re recovering the remains of those victims. With the information that we have, we are able to charge” the MS-13 members.