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Nassau DA: MS-13 gang members indicted on conspiracy charges in 2017 machete slaying

Luis Alejandro Varela, 23, of Mineola, is among

Luis Alejandro Varela, 23, of Mineola, is among the defendants named in the new indictment. Credit: Newsday

Prosecutors announced a new indictment Monday charging with conspiracy five alleged MS-13 members who already face murder charges in the 2017 Uniondale machete slaying of a fellow gang member.

The charges mean each defendant could get a sentence of up to 50 years to life in prison if found guilty of the combined offenses against them, according to the Nassau district attorney’s office.

Prosecutors have alleged members of the gang’s "Downtown Criminals" clique lured Carlos Rivas-Majano into the woods near the Meadowbrook State Parkway in August 2017 before hacking him to death.

The 22-year-old Uniondale man became a target after other gang members believed he somehow had betrayed MS-13, authorities said previously.

A police homicide commander has said the gang suspected Rivas-Majano "of certain cooperations," but wouldn’t say if the criminal syndicate with ties to El Salvador believed the victim had helped law enforcement.

Sources previously told Newsday that MS-13 targeted the victim because of cooperation with authorities.

Law enforcement officials also have said the victim went into the woods thinking he was only getting "a 13-second beatdown," one of the gang’s ways of punishing members for violations of MS-13’s rules.

Investigators found Rivas-Majano’s dismembered remains in August 2018 in a shallow grave while acting on a tip.

Prosecutors identified the defendants named in the new indictment as: Luis Alejandro Varela, 23, of Mineola, Uniondale residents Carlos Benitez-Hernandez, 23, and William Reyes-Fuentes, 26, and Hempstead residents Jose Quintanilla-Cruz, 26, and Nerlin Chacon-Ruano, 23.

All five pleaded not guilty on Monday, according to Nassau court spokesman Daniel Bagnuola.

Attorney Steven Barnwell, who represents Reyes-Fuentes, said Monday that his client has denied all involvement in the slaying and continues to do so following the new conspiracy indictment. Lawyers for the other defendants either declined comment or couldn't be immediately reached.

In 2019, a Nassau judge sentenced MS-13 member Edgar Ventura, then 21, to 32 years to life in prison after the Hempstead man pleaded guilty to Rivas-Majano’s killing and other crimes.

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