The alleged Northeast kingpin of the international criminal gang MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, 35-year-old Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, of Laurel, Md., was arraigned on Thursday before Acting Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Patricia Harrington.
Corea Diaz, know as “the Reaper” among the Long Island Sailors — a subgroup, or clique, of MS-13 — was one of 17 defendants listed in an indictment that prompted a major gang sweep on Long Island in early January. He was arrested on Oct. 10, 2017, and has been in custody in a Prince George’s County, Md., jail, charged with the sale and possession of heroin in that state. He was extradited to Nassau County on Wednesday.
Corea Diaz faces charges of operating as a major trafficker and second-degree conspiracy. If convicted of the top count, he faces up to 25 years to life in prison, according to Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas. He is due back in court on May 10.
In January, Special Agent James Hunt of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said that the gang members who were arrested included the highest-level MS-13 leader in the Northeast, but did not identify Corea Diaz by name.
“By arresting the head of the Northeast faction of MS-13,” Hunt said on Thursday, “we have crippled MS-13’s operations both in New York and in El Salvador.”
According to the indictment, members of the Long Island Sailors reported to Corea Diaz, and he in turn reported to gang heads in El Salvador. Corea Diaz, the indictment states, was responsible for delegating acts of violence, including murder, as well as the trafficking of narcotics that made money for the gang. With the help of other indicted MS-13 members, he allegedly trafficked large amounts of heroin to Long Island; the Bronx; Long Branch, N.J.; Baltimore; Houston; and Jefferson County, Texas.
Corea Diaz also instructed gang members to carry out murders in Elizabeth, N.J., and Prince George’s County, Md., that were prevented by law enforcement. He also allegedly instructed a fellow MS-13 member, Augustine Benitez, also indicted in January, to recruit members of the Long Island Sailors to kill a gang member in Maryland thought to have been working with law enforcement.
Last May, the Nassau County D.A.’s office joined a DEA investigation of alleged criminal activity of a number of MS-13 cliques in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Texas. The Long Island cliques — said to be operating in Central Islip, Freeport, Glen Cove, Greenport, Hempstead, Roosevelt and Uniondale — are alleged to be under the direct leadership of MS-13 members in El Salvador whom Corea Diaz reported to.
His arrest follows the January indictment of David Sosa Guevara, 26, and Victor Lopez, 29, alleged Long Island MS-13 members charged in the murder of Roosevelt teenager Angel Soler, 16. Soler was found in a wooded area near the Baldwin-Roosevelt border last Oct. 19.
The murders of two teens, Javier Castillo, 19, of Central Islip — whose body was found in Cow Meadow Park in Freeport last Oct. 25 — and Kerin Pineda, 15, whose remains were found in a wooded area between Freeport and Merrick, on Oct. 27, are suspected to be MS-13-related, but none of the gang members arrested have been named in connection to them.
“What started as a narcotics investigation with the Drug Enforcement Administration quickly expanded in scope and geography to include murder and violence committed by alleged MS-13 members throughout the United States and El Salvador,” Singas said on Thursday.
Corea Diaz’s attorney, Scott Gross, declined to comment as the Herald Leader went to press.