A Long Island gang member sought in the execution-style murders of his former girlfriend and her young son surrendered in Nicaragua at the urging of his family -- one day after making the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
Juan Garcia, 21, meekly gave himself up Thursday to FBI agents and local police at the U.S. Embassy in Managua, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Garcia, a member of the notorious MS-13 gang who lived in Baldwin, Central Islip and Inwood, has been charged with the February 2010 slayings and faces life in prison if convicted.
The fugitive was to be flown to Long Island-MacArthur Airport Friday night, accompanied by agents from the bureau's Long Island Gang Task Force. Sources said the FBI plane landed about 10 p.m.
He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, according to Robert Nardoza, spokesman for federal prosecutors in the Eastern District.
Garcia's immediate family in his native El Salvador convinced him to surrender in order to escape two growing threats: gang leaders upset about the boy's unauthorized killing and bounty hunters, the sources said.
A $100,000 reward had been offered for information leading to Garcia's capture.
He faces murder conspiracy, racketeering and other charges in connection with the murders of 19-year-old Vanessa Argueta and her 2-year-old son, Diego Torres, in Central Islip.
"Garcia has evaded justice for his crimes, but his days as a fugitive are over," Eastern District U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement Friday. "We hope his capture brings some measure of consolation to the Argueta and Torres families."
FBI agents contacted Garcia's relatives immediately after a Wednesday news conference at the New York FBI headquarters announcing his addition to the most-wanted list, the sources said.
The agents told the family that Central American bounty hunters without scruples might resort to violence to extract valuable information on where Garcia was hiding, and MS-13 leaders were also on the hunt, according to the sources.
The unidentified relatives contacted Garcia, who had been living in Nicaragua, and convinced him that it was in the entire family's interest for him to surrender immediately.
Garcia, who fled Long Island after the slayings, had last been spotted in 2011 working at a clothing store in Honduras, according to George Venizelos, the head of the New York FBI office.
At the time of his surrender, Garcia was living in Nicaragua with his girlfriend, who is expecting a baby, sources said.
"The pressure generated by this publicity was too much for Garcia to bear, resulting in his surrender and return to the United States," Venizelos said of the fugitive's new "most-wanted" status.
Argueta was taken to a vacant lot in Central Islip and shot because she had "disrespected" her former boyfriend by unsuccessfully trying to get rival gang members to hurt him after they had quarreled, according to testimony in related cases.
She thought Garcia was taking her out to a restaurant. She took her son along because she couldn't get a baby-sitter.
After killing Argueta, Garcia and two other MS-13 members decided to kill the toddler, who had just seen his mother killed.
The gang members originally planned to leave the toddler in the lot after executing his mother, but they decided to kill him also because he might grow up and seek revenge, according to federal prosecutors and court testimony.
Three other members of MS-13 already have been convicted in the murders of mother and son in federal court in Central Islip. One was sentenced to life in prison; two others are facing life in prison when they are sentenced.
The FBI said 471 of the 501 fugitives who have appeared on the most-wanted list since it began in 1950 have been captured. Tips from ordinary citizens have resulted in 157 of the arrests.