A Brentwood man who admitted to committing the 2011 execution-style slayings of two brothers — fellow MS-13 gang members — was sentenced Tuesday by a federal judge in Central Islip to 40 years in prison.
Before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco handed down the sentence, Arnolvin Umanzor Velasquez, 23, apologized to the family of the men he killed in 2011 — Enston Ceron, 21, and his brother, Ricardo, 19, both of Brentwood — and asked the brothers’ family for forgiveness.
“I am sorry for what I did,“ Velasquez said through a Spanish interpreter. “I am sorry from the bottom of my heart.”
The Ceron family was not in the courtroom, but Velasquez’s wife, parents and other family members were.
Bianco said Velasquez deserved credit for accepting responsibility for his actions but the father of three young children still had to answer for taking two lives.
The judge, who has presided over multiple gang-related killings, noted that the court needed to send a message to other young men with thoughts of committing acts of violence in the name of MS-13 or other street gangs.
“You’re going to jail for a long time . . . ,” Bianco said.
The sentence was shy of the 45 years requested by federal prosecutor John Durham, and more than the 30 years sought by Velasquez and his attorney, Gary Villanueva, of Manhattan.
Velasquez pleaded guilty March 11 before Bianco to killing the Ceron brothers. Prosecutors said Velasquez and another defendant, Sergio Cerna, shot the pair execution style in the early hours of Dec. 18. 2011.
That morning, the Ceron brothers were leaving a party when prosecutors said Cerna, a member of the Brentwood Locos Salvatruchas, a clique of MS-13, asked them for a ride home. The three men, and Velasquez, climbed into a Nissan Altima.
Ricardo Ceron drove to the area of Lincoln Avenue and Stockton Street in Brentwood, prosecutors said, and when he stopped the car, Velasquez and Cerna shot him and his brother.
Enston Ceron was shot twice in the head. Ricardo Ceron was shot once in the head and once in the right side of the upper body, but the second bullet also struck him in the head.
Velasquez and Cerna ran off but when a Good Samaritan saw the two brothers slumped over in the Altima and tried to call 911, prosecutors said Cerna fired several shots at him. One bullet struck the man in the chest but he survived.
Cerna, who also pleaded guilty to the killings, is awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors said Velasquez and other members of the Brentwood Locos Salvatruchas, including its leader, had plotted and orchestrated the Ceron brothers’ murders for weeks, perhaps months.
After the killings, prosecutors said, Velasquez boasted about them and demonstrated his continued allegiance to MS-13 by tattooing the gang’s initials “BLS” across his chest.
The Brentwood Locos Salvatruchas clique decided to kill Enston Ceron because its leaders and members believed he was “distancing himself from the gang by not attending meetings or ‘putting in work’ for the gang and they were concerned he might cooperate with law enforcement authorities if he were arrested,” according to court papers.
Ricardo Ceron was also a member of MS-13 but belonged to the Western Locos Salvatruchas clique, prosecutors said. He was gunned down to prevent him from seeking retaliation for his brother’s killing.
Velasquez, a permanent U.S. resident, fled to El Salvador after the fatal shootings. He later returned to the United States and was arrested in Georgia last May.
While acknowledging the role Velasquez played in the double homicide, his attorney, Villanueva, asked the judge to consider that his client was only 18 at the time.
Velasquez has since turned his life around, Villanueva told Bianco. He got married, had children, and worked as a landscaper and at McDonald’s to support his family, the lawyer said.
“He was a family man, who worked two jobs, paid taxes, signed up for the Affordable Care Act as required and became a productive and law abiding person,” Villanueva said.