Former gang member recounts killing despite last-minute complications
The MS-13 killing of a rival gang member in 2017 inside a Central Islip deli had to be carried out immediately despite some last-minute complications to the quickly hatched plan because “the homeboys in El Salvador already knew, so we had to kill that day,” an admitted MS-13 gang member testified Wednesday at the trial of a former associate.
Kevin Cifuentes has pleaded guilty to his own role in the killing and admitted to multiple gang-related crimes while testifying against former associate Jose Suarez, 24, of Central Islip. In a matter-of-fact tone, he described in federal court the fatal shooting of Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla, a member of the 18th Street gang labeled a "chavala" or enemy of MS-13.
"He stood behind the chavala . . . and he put the 9-mm to his head and he pulled the trigger, 'boom,' and then the chavala fell down . . ." said Cifuentes, 25, formerly of Brentwood, describing the shooting committed by Mario Aguilar-Lopez, who pleaded guilty last year and is awaiting sentencing.
Cifuentes, testifying through a Spanish language interpreter, said that after the shooter fired a few more times: "The mission had been accomplished."
Suarez is on trial in Central Islip, accused of being the getaway driver in the deli killing, during which a female clerk was also shot, but survived. Suarez, formerly of Central Islip, is also charged with conspiracy in connection to an alleged gang assault at a taco restaurant in 2016 and for selling cocaine and marijuana.
Cifuentes has testified that he sold cocaine and marijuana on Long Island for the gang and was also tasked with picking up $200 in weekly protection money paid to the gang from a brothel in Medford. He told the jury that Suarez was designated the driver of the "clique car,” a dark sedan that had been purchased for the Brentwood Sailors clique of MS-13, on the day of the Jan. 30, 2017, killing.
The vehicle, which Cifuentes said was used to “kill, sell drugs, do anything that’s illegal,” was stored at Suarez's home, but wouldn’t start that morning. After a clique leader, identified by Cifuentes as Alexi Saenz, or “Blasty,” tried in vain to find another car, Cifuentes said he suggested they kill him elsewhere, reminding “Blasty” that there were cameras at the deli.
But “Blasty” said the killing couldn’t be delayed because leaders in El Salvador had already been told of the plan. Blasty’s brother, Jairo Saenz, whose gang nickname is “Funny,” was also involved in the planning of the killing, Cifuentes said.
Cifuentes said he tried to give Suarez an out after they had started the car with jumper cables and affixed a license plate stolen from another gang member’s car, telling him of the plan to kill the rival. But Cifuentes said Suarez wanted to drive and told him in vulgar language he needed to be bolder.
Suarez drove shooter Aguilar-Lopez and Cifuentes to the deli. Cifuentes said he was tasked by “Blasty” with witnessing the crime and pretending to be a deli customer.
He bought a few pupusas, a Salvadorean flatbread usually filled with cheese, beans or meat, while waiting for customers to leave the store. But a few minutes later, Cifuentes said, he called Suarez, who was waiting in the clique car with the shooter and gave the words to proceed with the plan: “Do it.”
Suarez's lawyer, Raymond L. Colon, alleged Cifuentes lied about his client's role in the killing and had tried to falsely paint himself as a "hero" that tried to talk Suarez out of taking part in the slaying.
"It is one of the greatest feats of fiction that I've heard under oath and quite frankly he committed perjury on the stand in an attempt to spare his good friend from committing a murder while simultaneously throwing him under the bus," Colon, of Manhattan said Tuesday after Cifuentes left the stand for the day.
Cifuentes also testified about how “Blasty” had once shown him a photo of the body of Oscar Acosta, 19, whose skeletal remains were found on Sept. 16, 2016, in a wooded, industrial area of Brentwood. But he said he had told him not to tell anyone about the picture.
“It showed he was bound from his arms and his legs . . .” said Cifuentes, adding that there were “machete wounds all over his body.”
Both Saenz brothers have been indicted in Acosta’s killing and are awaiting trial.