An MS-13 member testified Monday at the trial of a gang associate accused of killing and assault that violating one of the gang’s cardinal rules — showing it disrespect — required in return a savage beating.
Gang member German Cruz, 21, of Brentwood, now a cooperating government witness, said that after a man insulted the gang, Cruz, the defendant MS-13 associate Jose Suarez and other gang members viciously assaulted the man and his nephew outside a Brentwood restaurant.
In addition to describing the MS-13 practice of brutally retaliating against any sign of disrespect, including a beating — called in gang slang a calentone, or correction — Cruz offered other insight into the gang’s operation, and its handful of cardinal rules. Among them: concentrating on hunting and killing rival gang members; never informing to the police; and killing members believed to be gay, Cruz said under questioning by Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Keilty, who is prosecuting the case along with Raymond Tierney.
Keilty played videos of the attack on the man and nephew by people identified by Cruz as himself, defendant Suarez and other gang members, recorded by surveillance cameras outside the Super Taco restaurant in Brentwood in December of 2016.
Suarez, 21, of Central Islip is accused, along with the assaults, of killing a man in a Central Islip deli in January 2017 who the MS-13 gang believed to be a member of rival 18th Street gang.
The assault on the uncle included punching him the face, and repeatedly kicking him in the head, after he had fallen to the ground, Cruz testified in federal court in Central Islip.
“We did it … in honor of MS,” Cruz said of the assaults, speaking through a Spanish interpreter.
The incident began, Cruz testified, when the uncle and his nephew complained about how Cruz was dancing with the nephew’s girlfriend, a waitress at the Super Taco bar and restaurant.
When Cruz identified himself as an MS-13 member, he said that the uncle replied that he wasn’t impressed; that MS-13 was [expletive]; and that, in any event, the real leaders of MS-13 were in El Salvador.
Under questioning by Suarez’s defense attorney, Raymond Colon, Cruz acknowledged that he was cooperating with the government in hope of getting a lighter sentence after pleading guilty to both the assault on the uncle and nephew, and to participating in the killing in June 2016 of gang member Jose Pena. Pena was killed both because he was in a relationship with a gay person and was believed to be a police informant, Cruz said.
Suarez is on trial in federal court in Central Islip for also being the getaway driver for the shooter in the MS-13 killing of Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla in a Central Islip deli in January of 2017. Alvarado-Bonilla was wearing a No. 18 football jersey, that of star NFL player Peyton Manning, and one often worn by members of 18th Street.
Suarez faces up to life in prison if he is convicted in this trial. His initial trial in the case ended in April in a mistrial.
About a dozen other members of MS-13, who are facing a possible death penalty, are awaiting trial on Long Island for killings, including the 2016 slaying of two high school girls, Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens.
The most recent spate of killings on Long Island allegedly committed by MS-13 has focused national attention on the gang.
Since 2003, hundreds of MS-13 members on Long Island, including dozens of clique leaders, have been convicted of federal felony charges, including racketeering murder, attempted murder and assault, by Eastern District federal prosecutors working with the FBI's Long Island Gang Task Force, according to officials. Dozens of MS-13 members have been convicted in 45 murders since 2010, officials have said.