FBI: Indictments against 11 in Suffolk MS-13 gang

A Suffolk County Sheriff's Department photo of an

A Suffolk County Sheriff's Department photo of an MS13 gang tattoo on a gang member. (Credit: Handout, 2007)

Eleven members and associates of the MS-13 street gang in Suffolk County were indicted Friday on charges of murder, conspiracy and other gang-related crimes, including the 2009 slaying of a Brentwood bodega worker, the FBI and federal prosecutors said.

The charges, which could bring the death penalty for several suspects, also give details of an alleged gang-initiation crime in which a would-be member of MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, attempted to kill a rival gang member.

If convicted, each suspect faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and six face "mandatory life in prison, or possibly the death penalty," the FBI said.

"For years, members of the MS-13 street gang have terrorized communities across Long Island," Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

Those charged "cut a swath of terror and wanton violence victimizing innocent citizens across Suffolk County," Lynch said.

All of the suspects, including 10 who were already in custody, were held without bail on permanent orders of detention at Friday's arraignment before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco in Central Islip.

Friday's legal process involves previous charges and indictments that are now wrapped up in a 50-count superseding indictment unsealed at the Central Islip courthouse, the FBI said.

Five new defendants were linked in the indictment to the overall MS-13 gang prosecution. They are Edwin Acosta-Martinez, 23; Edwin Hernandez, 21; Mario Rodriguez-Chinchilla, 24; Walter Velasquez-Cruz, 27; and a co-defendant whose identity remains under seal.

A centerpiece of the prosecution is the Sept. 12, 2009, gunpoint robbery of Los Hermanos Grocery, in which employee Miguel Peralta, 57, was shot and killed. The FBI said Joyser Velasquez, 28; Francisco Ponce, 30; and the unnamed co-defendant are charged with this crime.

Other crimes in the indictments are the attempted murder of two suspected rival gang members in Central Islip, and seven other armed robberies that took place in Suffolk County from 2009 through this year.

The FBI gave an account of the Los Hermanos robbery-murder.

"Velasquez and the co-defendant, armed with handguns, entered the store, while Ponce waited as the getaway driver," the FBI said. "Peralta, who was sweeping a storeroom in the back of the store, heard the commotion, entered the front of the store, and came face to face with Velasquez, who shot him once in the side. Peralta then ran down an aisle where he was confronted by the co-defendant, who shot him in the head."

The suspects then stole cash and checks from Los Hermanos' register, authorities said.

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