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Long IslandCrime

Witness testifies how he sold cocaine under orders of MS-13 boss jailed in El Salvador

The testimony came in the trial of Jose Suarez, a defendant accused of being an MS-13 associate who acted as the getaway driver in the January 2017 killing at a Central Islip deli of a victim believed to be a rival gang member.

Suffolk County police investigate a shooting at 133

Suffolk County police investigate a shooting at 133 Caleb's Path in Central Islip on Jan. 30, 2017. Jose Suarez, 21, of Central Islip, is accused of being an MS-13 associate who acted as the getaway driver in the killing at the deli. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Extorting money from a brothel; selling more than a kilo of cocaine; and following the orders of leadership jailed in El Salvador prisons.

These were some actions of the MS-13 gang, an associate cooperating with the government detailed Monday, as he also tied to MS-13 a defendant on trial for the murder of what MS-13 gang members thought was a rival street gang member.

The cooperator, Kevin Cifuentes, 25, was the third person affiliated with MS-13 to outline how the street gang works as a government cooperator in federal court in Central Islip at the trial of Jose Suarez.

Suarez, 21, of Central Islip, is accused of being an MS-13 associate who acted as the getaway driver in the January 2017 killing in a Central Islip deli of a person believed to be a member of the gang’s bitter rival, the 18th Street gang. Cifuentes has pleaded guilty to his role in the killing and is awaiting sentencing.

The murder victim, Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla, was wearing the No. 18 football jersey favored by 18th Street, that of former NFL star Peyton Manning.

Suarez has denied involvement in MS-13 crimes, and his attorney, Raymond Colon of Manhattan, has said his client is being prosecuted because he hung out with MS-13 members.

At a previous trial of Suarez, which ended in a mistrial, Cifuentes testified that while Suarez drove the killer of Alvarado-Bonilla to and from the murder scene, he himself was stationed by MS-13 inside the deli, acting as the gang’s witness to the carrying out of the crime.

A video played at the trial shows the victim inside the deli, and Cifuentes standing by the counter, while the shooter walks in. The shooter, Mario Aguilar-Lopez, has also pleaded guilty in the case and is awaiting sentencing.

The video was played by federal prosecutor Michael Keilty, who is trying the case along with Raymond Tierney.

Cifuentes said the defendant Suarez helped him distribute cocaine for their Brentwood-based Sailors clique of MS-13. Cifuentes’ testimony is expected to continue Tuesday, including his and Suarez’s alleged role in the killing of Alvarado-Bonilla.

In Monday’s testimony, Cifuentes told about how gang members extorted $200 a week in protection money from a Medford brothel, and how he began to sell cocaine on Long Island for the gang under the instructions of a gang leader jailed in El Salvador.

Cifuentes said that when he was first interested in affiliating with MS-13, he spoke by telephone with the gang leader in El Salvador. He identified the leader only by the nickname "Poseido," which is Spanish for "possessed." The leader instructed him to sell cocaine and send the money back to him in El Salvador.

Cifuentes estimated that  from 2010  to 2017 he sold a total of 1.5 to 2 kilos of cocaine, broken down into small quantities. All of the money either went to El Salvador or to his Sailors clique on Long Island, he said.

The leader, as with most top MS-13 leaders, was in a Salvadorean jail, but was still able to communicate with gang members on the outside.

Cifuentes said the man was a top leader known as a "palabrero," gang slang for “one who has the word,” a person who gives the orders.

That leader had authority over gang members on Long Island, Cifuentes said, because MS-13 has a hierarchical structure, and leaders in El Salvador were widely respected. Their orders were followed because “the guy is based there” in a much more violent culture, where killings are more often committed by gang members.

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