Federal court in Central Islip.

Federal court in Central Islip. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

A member of the MS-13 gang from Brentwood pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal racketeering charges in the murders of three Long Island men, two of whom were targeted in the mistaken belief that the color of their clothing or tattoos indicated rival gang membership, prosecutors said.

Jhonny Contreras, 28, a member of the Brentwood clique of the MS-13 gang, admitted in federal district court in Central Islip to taking part in the three killings from 2013 to 2015 as part of what law enforcement officials said was a “twisted desire to increase his status within the MS-13 gang.”

By entering his guilty plea to the racketeering offenses in court before Judge Gary R. Brown, Contreras admitting taking part in the 2013 Memorial Day weekend murder of Derrick Mayes and Keenan Russell, according to prosecutors.

Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement that Contreras and his co-conspirators on May 26, 2013, drove around Central Islip in a stolen minivan looking for rival gang members During the drive, Contreras and his accomplices spotted Mayes, an African American, who they didn't know and wrongfully assumed was a member of the Bloods gang because he was wearing an article of red clothing, and they shot him dead.

The following night, Contreras and his group of MS-13 accomplices again drove around Central Islip, spotted Russell who was also African American. They did not know him, wrongfully assumed he was also a Bloods members and fatally shot him, prosecutors said.

Contreras also admitted in his guilty plea to taking part in the Nov. 19, 2015, murder of Cesar Rivera-Vasquez in Babylon, according to Peace. Rivera-Vasquez was suspected by the Contreras crew of being part of a rival Mexican gang known as Raza Loca and was beaten with a baseball bat and stabbed to death in an isolated area near a baseball field in Babylon. After Rivera-Vasquez was killed his body was buried and not discovered until April 2018, according to investigators.

Andrew Patel, the defense attorney for Contreras, declined to comment late Tuesday.

“These murders are a grim reminder of the violence and lack of regard for human life that MS-13 exudes — killing innocent people simply because they are wearing a certain color or are believed to be from a rival gang,” Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said in a statement issued along with Peace and FBI assistant director in charge Michael J. Driscoll.

Contreras faces up life in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 23, officials said.

The conviction of Contreras is the latest of a yearslong offensive by Long Island federal and local law enforcement against MS-13. Since 2003, hundreds of gang members, including dozens of clique leaders, have been convicted on Long Island of federal charges, officials noted, including cases covering 60 murders.

Search continues at Heuermann's home … Stony Brook post office eagle restored … Ken Buffa: Stunt pilot Credit: Newsday

Bus tickets controversy ... Search continues at Heuermann's home ... LI water patrols ramped up ... FeedMe: North Fork

Search continues at Heuermann's home … Stony Brook post office eagle restored … Ken Buffa: Stunt pilot Credit: Newsday

Bus tickets controversy ... Search continues at Heuermann's home ... LI water patrols ramped up ... FeedMe: North Fork

Latest videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME