MS-13 gang leader sentenced to life for two murders

A leader of the MS-13 street gang was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for two murders by a federal judge who called him an "extremely dangerous" person who killed for "sport."

Carlos Ortega, 24, of Brentwood, showed no emotion as U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco in Central Islip gave him the mandatory life sentence, plus an additional 60 years for using a weapon in commission of his crimes.

During his six-week trial earlier this year, Eastern District federal prosecutors John Durham and Raymond Tierney described Ortega as "a big homeboy from El Salvador" who came to Long Island to see how the local chapters of MS-13 were operating.


PHOTOS: Mug shots | Notorious crimes | DATA: LI crime rates
MAPS: Reported crimes near you | Registered sex offenders


Ortega was convicted of two killings that occurred in 2010. One victim was David Sandler, 20, of Brentwood, who was mistaken for a member of the rival Latin Kings gang, and the other was Mario Quijada, 25, of Far Rockaway, an MS-13 member who was hacked to death on a Far Rockaway beach because he would not attack or kill rival gang members.

In imposing the sentence, Bianco noted that Quijada was in effect "executed because he had a conscience."

"Ortega committed heinous acts of violence in the name of MS-13, cutting a swath of murder from Brentwood to Far Rockaway, all within the span of a few weeks," Eastern District U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement after the sentencing. "Today's life sentence is a fitting end to Ortega's reign of terror."

Before the sentencing, Sandler's mother, Claribel Fiallo, gave an emotional statement through tears, and occasionally had to stop to regain her composure.

"Why did he kill my son?" Fiallo asked. "It's very painful . . . No one deserves to die like this . . . When the holidays come, I think of my son more." She added: "He wasn't perfect, but he had a heart."

As Ortega was led out of the courtroom by marshals, a man with Fiallo, who would only identify himself as Sandler's uncle, shouted out to the MS-13 leader, "Rot in hell, you deserve it."

Ortega's attorneys, Ira London and Marianne Rantala, said their client would appeal, but had no further comment.

Ortega was convicted in the killing of Quijada, along with another leader of MS-13, his co-defendant, Heriberto Martinez, in what prosecutors said was a murderous spree by MS-13 in early 2010.

Martinez also was convicted at the trial of the killing of 19-year-old Vanessa Argueta and of being an "accessory after the fact" in the killing of her 2-year-old son, Diego Torres. He was also convicted of the killing of Nestor Moreno, a security guard at a Hempstead bar.

Martinez, who also faces life in prison, is awaiting sentencing.

Ortega was among the more than 200 MS-13 members who, since 2002, have been convicted of federal charges, mostly on Long Island, as a result of the FBI's Long Island Gang Task Force, according to Lynch.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday