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Feds: Alexi Saenz a brutal killer who led MS-13's Long Island resurgence

Federal prosecutors have said Alexi Saenz was the

Federal prosecutors have said Alexi Saenz was the face of the "Sailors" clique of MS-13 as the street gang had a resurgence on Long Island. Credit: US Attorney Eastern District of New York

Federal court documents portray Alexi Saenz as the brutal leader of a Long Island clique of the MS-13 street gang, ordering the killings of seven people in 2016 and 2017.

Saenz, 25, allegedly headed the violent resurgence of MS-13 on Long Island as the number one in command of the Brentwood-based "Sailors" clique. Federal prosecutors have said he directed the September 2016 killings of Brentwood high schoolers Nisa Mickens, 15, and Kayla Cuevas, 16. The girls' killings rocked the community and led to a fierce law enforcement crackdown.

Federal authorities Wednesday said they will seek the death penalty in his case if he is convicted. Saenz has pleaded not guilty to charges including murder and racketeering. Saenz’s attorney declined to comment. Attempts Wednesday to reach family members or friends of Saenz were unsuccessful.

President Donald Trump, in the Oval Office Wednesday, called Saenz "a bloodthirsty MS-13 leader responsible for the despicable killing of seven Americans, including two teenage girls."

In justifying their seeking the death penalty, federal prosecutors laid out several factors, including the premeditated nature of the killings and what they alleged was his “continued criminal conduct while incarcerated” at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where many local federal pretrial defendants are held.

Saenz, who goes by the street name, "Blasty," has maintained his leadership role in the gang while in prison, communicating with other MS-13 gang leaders in El Salvador and the United States on cellphones considered prison contraband, according to the notice from the Eastern District of New York's Acting U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme. Saenz has also authorized “violent attacks against other inmates" and threatened prison guards, prosecutors allege.

Prosecutors also said in the document that Saenz was "actively attempting to identify cooperators for retaliation, threatening other MS-13 members to induce them to not plead guilty and hiding sharpened pieces of metal, known as 'shanks' inside his cell." 

Saenz, along with several other co-defendants -- including his brother, Jairo Saenz, the alleged second-in-command in the clique -- was indicted in March 2017 for the Jan. 28, 2016 killing of Michael Johnson; the April 29, 2016, killing of Oscar Acosta; the Sept. 13, 2016, killings of Cuevas and Mickens; the Oct. 10, 2016, killing of Javier Castillo; the Oct. 13, 2016, killing of Dewann Stacks, and the Jan. 30, 2017, killing of Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla, prosecutors have said.

When federal prosecutors executed a search warrant at the Saenz brothers' home in March 2017, authorities have alleged, they found a cache of weapons, including a loaded 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, numerous rounds of ammunition, including additional 9 mm, .38 caliber and .357 caliber weapons as well as machetes, a sword, a hatchet and knives.

In the case of Cuevas and Mickens, prosecutors have alleged that after Kayla had a series of disputes with MS-13 gang members at Brentwood High School, the gang vowed revenge. As some alleged gang members drove around looking for her, federal prosecutors have said, the alleged gang members spotted her and Nisa walking and called Saenz and his brother, “who authorized them to kill the two girls.”

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