Current and former Nassau homicide detectives testified Wednesday that an MS-13 gang leader confessed to them that he had a security guard in a Hempstead bar killed after a dispute over an unpaid bar tab for four beers.
The two, Milton Aponte and retired Det. Robert DePietro, said they came to the NYPD precinct in Far Rockaway in March 2010, after the leader, Heriberto Martinez, 25, of Far Rockaway, was arrested in connection with another murder -- that of a member of his street gang.
Martinez is on trial in federal district court in Central Islip, along with another MS-13 member, Carlos Ortega, 23, of Brentwood, in connection with five killings, including that of former gang member Mario Quijada on Far Rockaway Beach and Hempstead security guard Nestor Moreno. Ortega is not charged in the Moreno death.
DePietro and Aponte said that Martinez essentially gave them both the same account of the Moreno killing when questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham.
The accounts were that Martinez and several other MS-13 members went to the El Rancho bar in Hempstead in February 2010, where a friend offered to buy them drinks.
But the friend disappeared before paying for the beers, and the MS-13 members got into a fight with Moreno when he unsuccessfully attempted to collect the bill. The price of the four beers was not mentioned.
Martinez then said he returned to the bar in March 2010 with several MS-13 members and one of them shot Moreno to death, according to the detectives.
The detectives said that Martinez calmly confessed to his role in the murder and did not appear to be tired, drunk or under the influence of drugs. "One thing he wanted me to know was that he wasn't the shooter in the case," DePietro said.
In Aponte's account, Martinez told him that he waited in a car outside the bar while instructing two other MS-13 members: "You guys go shoot him."
In her cross-examination, one of Martinez's defense attorneys, Elizabeth Macedonio of Bayside, tried to cast doubt on Martinez's confession by suggesting that he had been in custody for many hours and had been questioned at length by New York and Suffolk detectives before the Nassau detectives spoke with him.