The FBI takes MS-13 gang member Enrique Portillo, right, into...

The FBI takes MS-13 gang member Enrique Portillo, right, into custody on March 2, 2017, in the killings of two teenage Brentwood girls. Credit: Newsday

A member of MS-13 admitted Thursday to participating in racketeering activity, including the 2016 slaying of two teenage Brentwood girls, during a four-month wave of violence at the height of the street gang’s terrorizing grip over the community.

Enrique Portillo, 26, of Brentwood, faces the possibility of life in prison when he is sentenced in January after pleading guilty to one count of racketeering, which includes four killings, and a weapons charge at a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Gary Brown Thursday.

“I am guilty,” Portillo told the judge when asked if he was aware of his right to a fair trial.

Attorney David Stern of Manhattan spoke on behalf of Portillo, who is also known by the street names “Oso” and “Turkey,” as he admitted beating 16-year-old Brentwood High School student Kayla Cuevas and 15-year-old classmate Nisa Mickens with a baseball bat after being told Cuevas had disrespected members of the gang in an incident that led to a fight at the school.


  • MS-13 member Enrique Portillo pleaded guilty Thursday to racketeering and firearms charges in connection with his participation in four murders on Long Island, including the 2016 killings of Brentwood teenagers Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas.
  • Portillo also admitted his role in four attempted murders — including two while in custody in federal prison — and arson.
  • He faces up to life in prison on the racketeering charge and a 10-year, mandatory minimum sentence on a firearms charge when he is sentenced in January.

Portillo, who was 19 at the time, said he and other members of the Sailor Locos Salvatruchos Westside clique of the gang, including one armed with a machete, chased the two girls down Stahley Street in Brentwood, where he struck them in the head and body on Sept. 13, 2016.

“The defendant hit one of the girls so hard, he broke the baseball bat,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Justina Geraci told the court.

Nisa Mickens, left, and Kayla Cuevas.

Nisa Mickens, left, and Kayla Cuevas. Credit: /Family; SCPD

Cuevas’ father, Freddy, exited the courtroom moments after Geraci’s description of the violent act, peering back at Portillo as he made his way to the door.

He later gave a thumbs-up to reporters as he was escorted from the courthouse grounds in a car driven by a court security officer.

Two other family members of the victims left court moments after Cuevas, wiping tears from their eyes. One of the women, who identified herself only as an aunt of Mickens, described her niece as an aspiring basketball player and said the family is still “taking it one day at a time.”

“They have every reason to be angry when family members are killed,” Stern told reporters after the hearing. He otherwise declined to comment on his client’s case.

Freddy Cuevas, father of Kayla Cuevas, leaves the Alfonse D’Amato...

Freddy Cuevas, father of Kayla Cuevas, leaves the Alfonse D’Amato Federal Courthouse on Thursday in Central Islip. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The killing of the two teens sent shock waves through the Brentwood community and led to increased scrutiny from federal and county law enforcement. Cuevas’ mother, Evelyn Rodriguez, became a national voice against gang violence after the attack, earning an invite to the White House from President Donald Trump. Rodriguez later died after being run over following a confrontation as she visited a memorial on the two-year anniversary of her daughter’s death.

Portillo, wearing a yellow jumpsuit, his head shaved bald, also admitted a pair of killings of men he believed to be rival gang members: the October 2016 slaying of Dewann Stacks in Brentwood and the January 2017 killing of Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla in Central Islip. He also admitted four attempted murders, including two stabbings while incarcerated, and a September 2016 arson in which he set fire to a rival’s vehicle in Brentwood.

“The car exploded and ignited another parked car,” Geraci told the court.

Portillo, in prepared remarks read by Stern during the proceeding, said that “being older now, I’m very sorry for my actions.”

The hearing began with Brown inquiring with Stern and Portillo about his competence and ability to plead guilty to the crimes after issues of his competence were raised by prosecutors in the past. The judge allowed Stern to read his client’s admissions and followed each statement by asking Portillo if it were true.

“Yes,” he said each time.

Brown said he’s never “requested a more comprehensive inquiry” in the “hundreds of guilty pleas” in his career on the bench as he aimed to make certain Portillo, who had refused to appear in court Monday, knew what he was doing in admitting his guilt.

“I am absolutely confident that the defendant is acting voluntarily, that he fully understands his rights and he understands the consequences,” Brown said. “I therefore accept his guilty plea.”

Portillo was among the men  initially charged in 2017 with the killing of the two Brentwood girls and Alvarado-Bonilla. Brothers and clique leaders Alexi and Jairo Saenz of Brentwood could face the death penalty if they are convicted. About two dozen others have since been charged in subsequent indictments related to the various crimes.

Portillo is facing a guideline sentence of life in prison on the racketeering charge and a mandatory minimum of 10 years for discharge of a firearm in a crime of violence in connection with one of the attempted slayings. Stern told Brown he intends to seek a lesser sentence when Portillo, who also faces mandatory deportation, is sentenced Jan. 19.

Geraci obliged when Portillo asked the prosecutors to put on record that he was not cooperating with law enforcement, over fear of retaliation from his own gang.

Prosecutors said they have obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 65 murders in the Eastern District since 2010, resulting in “dozens of convictions.”

Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, said he’s confident justice will be served for the victims when Portillo is sentenced.

“Today, the defendant pleaded guilty to participating in four extremely brutal murders … that have left permanent scars in the Brentwood community which for too long has suffered acts of violence and destruction by MS-13,” Peace said in a statement.

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