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MS-13 gang's reputed East Coast leader rejects judge's plea offer

Under the deal, Miguel Angel Corea Diaz would have admitted to a major drug trafficking charge as a separate federal charge remains pending against him.

Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, seen here in DEA

Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, seen here in DEA custody in 2018, rejected a judge's plea offer Friday. Photo Credit: Newsday

The MS-13 gang’s reputed East Coast leader is heading toward a trial in Nassau County after rejecting a judge’s plea offer Friday that would have put him behind bars for 15 years.

Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, 36, previously pleaded not guilty to operating as a major drug trafficker and conspiring on Long Island to commit murder in his alleged leadership role in the transnational gang known for using machetes to inflict brutal violence.

The New Jersey man was among 17 defendants named in a January 2018 indictment after a probe that the Nassau district attorney’s office said foiled murder plots involving a Long Island clique of MS-13 and led to a $1 million heroin seizure.

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Harrington told Corea Diaz during his Friday court appearance in Mineola that she was happy he wasn’t taking her January plea offer of 15 years in prison.

Under that now-withdrawn deal, Corea Diaz would have admitted to a major drug trafficking charge as a separate federal charge remains pending against him.

But Harrington told the alleged gang boss it would have been “very difficult” for her “to actually keep that deal in good conscience” because she had since read the minutes of the grand jury proceeding and reviewed other aspects of the local case against him.

The judge had cited Corea Diaz’s federal indictment and said he would be deported after serving his prison time when initially making the plea offer.

“I’m going to move the case ahead to trial now,” Harrington said Friday of the New York charges.

A December indictment in federal court in Maryland charged Corea Diaz with conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise — a case that also ensnared eight others with alleged MS-13 ties.

Attorney Scott Gross, Corea Diaz’s appointed lawyer, said after court Friday that his client hasn’t yet been arraigned on the federal charge.

Authorities have said the El Salvador native, who is also known as “Reaper,” is facing up to life in prison if convicted in that case.

Edward Friedenthal, chief of the district attorney’s Special Operations, Narcotics and Gangs Bureau, told the judge Friday that prosecutors already had played some of the phone calls for Corea Diaz that would be used as evidence against him during a Nassau trial.

The judge told Corea Diaz that seven months of phone calls that law enforcement officials captured on a wiretap during their investigation had been translated from Spanish into English, and his attorney would get transcripts of those calls later Friday.

Harrington’s remarks came after Corea Diaz said he hadn’t seen any of the evidence against him.

Bald and broad-shouldered, the jail inmate wore a navy blazer to court Friday that was partly covered by a chain that encircled his waist and connected to his handcuffs.

Corea Diaz also added that he hadn’t had the opportunity to use the jail’s library, and suggested that he wanted a new attorney.

But Harrington told the defendant Gross was doing a “very diligent” job, and she wouldn’t appoint a new lawyer for him. 

A written request for Corea Diaz to get two hours of library time a week while behind bars was included on his inmate securing order Friday.

Last summer, Corea Diaz begged Harrington to intervene to improve the conditions of his imprisonment at Nassau’s jail.

He said he missed his children and hadn’t been able to speak to them while living in conditions his lawyer called “unbearable."

Gross said at the time that Corea Diaz was being kept in a cell for about 23 hours a day and only had limited access to a phone.

County officials refused to comment at the time about the defendant's jail housing or his claims.

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