A reputed member of MS-13, accused of taking part in the brutal April killings of four young men in a Central Islip park, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Central Islip federal court.
Omar Antonio Villalta, 22, of Central Islip and Charlottesville, Virginia, who has the gang nickname “Anticristo,” only answered “yes” in a low voice to the charges against him and to routine questions.
A Spanish interpreter sat alongside him, though, translating the court proceedings.
Federal prosecutors said that more than a dozen members and associates used machetes, knives and clubs to kill the four young men because they had disrespected MS-13, and were believed to be members of a rival gang, according to an investigation by the FBI’s Long Island gang task force.
Family members of the victims have denied they were gang members.
Villalta is one of the four adult members of MS-13 who authorities said took part in the killings. One of the adults has not been identified. Authorities said six other MS-13 members or associates in custody in connection with the killings were juveniles and have not been identified under federal law.
Villalta was the last accused MS-13 member to be arraigned. He had initially been arrested in Virginia at the same time as most of the others, but had only recently arrived on Long Island.
He was charged with racketeering, conspiracy to murder rival gang members, and four counts of murder — one count each for the killings of Michael Lopez Banegas, 20, of Brentwood; Justin Llivicura, 16, of East Patchogue; Jorge Tigre, 18, of Bellport; and Jefferson Villalobos, 18, of Pompano Beach, Florida, who was visiting Banegas, his cousin.
Villalta and the other adult MS-13 members accused in the killings could face the death penalty. Juveniles are not eligible for the death penalty under federal law.
Federal Magistrate Steven Locke ordered Villalta held without bail as a danger to the community and a flight risk because he entered the country illegally from El Salvador. Andrew Frisch, Villalta’s Manhattan lawyer, said Tuesday he had not had a chance to discuss with his client whether to notify the Salvadoran consulate.
Frisch declined to comment after Tuesday’s hearing, as did Eastern District prosecutor John Durham.