Five alleged members of MS-13 on Long Island were arraigned Thursday on new racketeering charges -- including murder and attempted murder -- and prosecutors say now more than two dozen members of the notorious gang have been linked to 16 murders.
Four of the defendants arraigned Thursday have been previously charged. The new 75-count indictment unsealed on Aug. 8 includes the additional charges and another defendant who is accused of involvement in the Oct. 10, 2016, murder of Javier Castillo in Freeport.
“The MS-13’s mission to commit senseless and vicious acts of violence, terrorizing our communities in the process, is evident from the charges announced today,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert P. Donoghue.
The new indictment adds racketeering, murder and conspiracy charges against Jhonny Contreras, 25, of Brentwood, Reynaldo Lopez-Alvarado, 26, of Brentwood and Jeffrey Amador, 22, of Brentwood, in connection with the Nov. 19, 2015, murder of Cesar Rivera-Vasquez in Babylon and rackeeteering charges against Ronald Catalan, 27, of Brentwood, for a June 23, 2008 shooting in Brentwood.
All but Lopez-Alvarado's attorney declined comment or were unavailable Thursday.
"My client has indicated he was not involved with any murder," said Chris Cassar of Huntington, Lopez-Alvarado's lawyer. "He feels there’s a frenzy of individuals that are giving false and misleading information to the government in order to receive leniency for their own criminal conduct. He intends to defend himself in this action."
Most of the victims were murdered because they were believed to be rival gang members, prosecutors said. The killings include those of four young men whose remains were found in a Central Islip park last April and Brentwood teens Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15 in September 2016.
The additional defendant named in the new indictment is Ruendy Jhonatan Hernandez-Vasquez, 22, of Roosevelt and Freeport, who is charged in connection with Castillo's murder and with drug offenses.
A news release from the Justice Department says Hernandez-Vasquez is also wanted by Interpol, which has issued an arrest warrant for him in connection with a murder he allegedly committed in El Salvador before illegally entering the country.
The charges stem from investigations conducted by the FBI's Long Island Task Force along with local police.
“With such a violent gang tormenting the neighborhoods of Long Island, it is essential that we work closely with our fellow law enforcement agencies to continue to round up the individuals committing these violent crimes," said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney.