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In indictment, feds add new names to list of charged MS-13 members

Javier Castillo's portrait is seen in Brentwood in

Javier Castillo's portrait is seen in Brentwood in November 2017. Federal prosecutors say the Central Islip teen was killed by members of MS-13, and his remains were found in October 2017 in Freeport. Credit: James Carbone

Federal authorities have added seven names to the roster of the Long Island-based MS-13 street gang that they say is responsible for a total of 15 killings in Suffolk and Nassau counties, according to a new indictment unsealed Thursday.

The superseding indictment, a fifth issued by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, provides new details in three of those slayings: the April 29, 2016, murder of Oscar Acosta in Brentwood, the Oct. 10, 2016, murder of Javier Castillo in Freeport and the Oct. 13, 2016, murder of Dewann Stacks in Brentwood.

Also cited in the indictment are the attempted murders of suspected rival gang members in July and August of 2016 in Brentwood and the Sept. 12, 2016, arson of two vehicles in Brentwood and a Dec. 18, 2016, assault outside Super Taco restaurant in Brentwood.

The body of Acosta, 19, a student at Brentwood High School’s Ross Center, was found in an industrial area near the Long Island Rail Road tracks on Sept. 16, 2016. The following month, the beaten body of Stacks, 34, of Brentwood, was found on American Boulevard in Brentwood. The remains of Castillo, 16, of Central Islip, were found Oct. 23, 2017, in Cow Meadow Park and Preserve in Freeport.

“The charges in this indictment further demonstrate the utter brutality of the MS-13 and the havoc the gang inflicts on our communities,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement. “This office and our law enforcement partners will continue to combat the MS-13’s violence with relentless perseverance until the gang is dismantled and its members are brought to justice.”

In all, two dozen alleged members of the brutal street gang have now been accused in the overarching case, which includes 73 counts comprising murder, attempted murder, racketeering and other charges.

Charged in the new indictment were Nelson Argueta-Quintanilla, 21, of Brentwood; Wilber Adalberto Fernandez-Vasquez, 22, of Roosevelt; Ever Flores, 26, of Brentwood; Jonathan Hernandez, 20, of Brentwood; Kevin Torres, 22, of Roosevelt; and Frank Alexander Ventura-Ramirez, 29, of Freeport. All are facing charges that include murder.

The seventh defendant newly named in the indictment, Marlon Serrano, 20, of Brentwood, is facing charges that include arson, but not murder.

All seven were already in custody. Another man, whose name was not released, is a fugitive.

Fernandez-Vasquez, Flores, Torres and Ventura-Ramirez were arraigned Thursday before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco, and all pleaded not guilty. Bianco ordered them held without bail. The other three defendants who were in court were not arraigned because their lawyers were unavailable. Bianco said they would be arraigned either Friday or Monday.

Attorneys for the arraigned defendants did not comment after the proceeding. The defendants are due back in court on June 25.

The seven defendants who appeared in Bianco’s 10th floor courtroom in Central Islip Thursday — four in bright orange jumpsuits and the three others in street clothes — were handcuffed, shackled and guarded by seven U.S. Marshals, as well as two court security guards. All are natives of El Salvador and are in the country illegally, said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham.

The superseding indictment also names defendants previously charged in the case who will be arraigned on the new charges at their next court dates: Enrique Portillo, 20, of Central Islip; Alexi Saenz, 23, of Brentwood; Jairo Saenz, 21, of Brentwood; Jerlin Villalta, 21, of Brentwood; and Jose Suarez, 24, of Central Islip.

Prosecutors allege that Kevin Torres, leader of the Sailors clique in New York, and Alexi Saenz, leader of the Brentwood chapter of the Sailors clique, authorized Acosta’s murder because he was suspected of being a member of the rival 18th Street gang.

Alexi and Jairo Saenz are brothers and are charged in the killings of Nisa Mickens, 15, and Kayla Cuevas, 16, who were fatally beaten with machetes in Brentwood in 2016.

On April 29, 2016, Argueta-Quintanilla and other MS-13 members beat Acosta with tree limbs, tied him up and called Alexi Saenz, Jairo Saenz, Hernandez and others, authorities said. The alleged gang members met up and loaded Acosta into the trunk of a car, drove to a more isolated wooded area in Brentwood, and stabbed and slashed him to death with a machete and buried his body, authorities said.

On Oct. 10, 2016, Alexi Saenz, Jairo Saenz, Fernandez-Vasquez, Ventura-Ramirez and other MS-13 members murdered Castillo, whom they also suspected of being a rival 18th Street gang member, authorities said.

The defendants lured Castillo to Cow Meadow Park in Freeport, where they attacked him with a machete and buried his body in a shallow grave near a saltwater marsh, authorities said.

Three days after Castillo’s killing — on Oct. 13, 2016 — prosecutors allege that Alexi Saenz, Jairo Saenz, Portillo, Flores and other MS-13 members murdered Stacks, whom they suspected of being a rival gang member.

Authorities allege that while Alexi Saenz and other members of the gang did surveillance from one car, Portillo, Flores and another MS-13 gang member attacked and killed Stacks with a baseball bat and machetes. Jairo Saenz drove the getaway car, authorities said.

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