Gang member testimony links MS-13 to 2 killings

Leaders of the MS-13 gang Heriberto Martinez, left, Leaders of the MS-13 gang Heriberto Martinez, left, and Carlos Ortega, right, are scheduled to go on trial in federal court in Central Islip. Photo Credit: Handout

advertisement | advertise on newsday

A member of the MS-13 street gang who is cooperating with prosecutors on Monday linked two leaders of the group to two slayings, including the killing of a security guard at a Hempstead bar who tried to collect a tab for a few beers from gang members.

Santos Joel Calderon, 20, of Far Rockaway, testified in federal court in Central Islip that a friend of several gang members, including a Brentwood chapter leader, had offered to buy them drinks at the El Rancho bar in March 2010. But the friend left before paying for the gang members' drinks, he said.

The chapter, or clique, leader, Heriberto Martinez, 25, along with another gang member, Carlos Ortega, 23, of Brentwood, are on trial in relation to five slayings, including that of the security guard, Nestor Moreno, 22. Ortega is not charged in connection with the killing of Moreno.

When Calderon and three other members of the gang tried to leave the Hempstead bar without paying, because they had no money on them, Moreno tried to stop them, Calderon said under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond Tierney.

Moreno first grabbed him by the collar and threw him to the ground, Calderon testified. Then, the Brentwood MS-13 chapter leader, Martinez, and two other members with them, came at the guard with beer bottles as weapons, he testified.

The security guard then sprayed Martinez in the face from a canister of pepper spray, but the four MS-13 members escaped, Calderon said. Martinez's "face was red and he was very angry," and before the MS-13 members fled, their leader told the guard, "this wouldn't end here," Calderon testified.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

A few days later, Martinez told him, "he wanted to go and kill the security guard," Calderon testified. He, Martinez and several other MS-13 members went back to the bar, where one of the gang members shot the guard in the middle of the forehead, he testified.

Calderon also testified that he was later part of a meeting of MS-13 members, including Martinez and Ortega, who voted to approve the killing of a fellow MS-13 member, Mario Alberto Quijada, 25, of Far Rockaway. Quijada had violated gang rules because he had admitted that he could not kill members of rival gangs. Quijada "asked to be forgiven . . . [because] he never pulled a trigger and couldn't," Calderon testified.

Quijada was hacked and stabbed to death on a Far Rockaway beach also in March 2010, according to court papers.

Calderon said he is cooperating with the government because he faces a mandatory life sentence unless he gets leniency for his testimony.

You also may be interested in: