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MS-13 gang member pleads guilty to 2016 murder of rival gang associate, prosecutors say

Suffolk County police investigators probe a wooded area

Suffolk County police investigators probe a wooded area in Brentwood where a second body was discovered on Sept. 21, 2016. Credit: James Carbone

A member of the violent street gang MS-13 pleaded guilty Tuesday to racketeering charges related to his role in the 2016 murder of a teenager who was beaten, bound, stabbed and slashed to death with a machete, federal prosecutors announced.

Nelson Argueta-Quintanilla, 24, of Brentwood, also pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Central Islip to the attempted murder of suspected rival gang members and conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

"This guilty plea will ensure that yet another violent member of MS-13, who has no regard for human life, will be imprisoned for his senseless, brutal crimes," said Stuart Cameron, acting commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department.

Bobbi Sternheim, Argueta-Quintanilla's defense attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.

Argueta-Quintanilla was charged with taking part in the April 29, 2016 slaying in Brentwood of Oscar Acosta, 19, who was believed to be an associate of the 18th Street gang, rivals of MS-13, federal prosecutors said.

MS-13 members lured Acosta to a wooded area near a Brentwood elementary school under the pretense of smoking marijuana. They assaulted the teen with tree limbs, knocking him unconscious, authorities said.

The gang members then tied Acosta’s hands and feet, wrapped clothing around his mouth to prevent him from talking and summoned other MS-13 members to the scene, officials said.

Acosta was then loaded into the trunk of a car and driven to a secluded area in Brentwood near an abandoned psychiatric hospital where he was killed and buried in a shallow grave, prosecutors said. The grave was discovered in Sept. 2016.

Jacquelyn Kasulis, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said Argueta-Quintanilla and another MS-13 member, also showed "wanton disregard for human life" when, in August 2016, they opened fire on a Brentwood home where suspected rival gang members were standing outside.

No one was hit, but a stray bullet entered a nearby house and struck the headboard of a bed where a neighbor was sleeping, authorities said.

Argueta-Quintanilla also pleaded guilty to participating in a drug conspiracy, admitting that between April 2016 and Oct. 2017, he and other MS-13 members distributed cocaine and marijuana to raise money for the gang, authorities said.

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