Two alleged members of the MS-13 street gang pleaded not guilty Wednesday in connection with two slayings in Nassau County in 2016.
Oseas Gonzalez, 28, and Jose Moises Blanco, 30, both of North Carolina, were among those charged in the Long Island part of a nationwide federal crackdown on MS-13 announced in July by President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr.
Gonzalez was accused in the killings of Kerin Pineda, 20, of Freeport, in May 2016, and Josue Amaya-Leonor, 19, of Roosevelt, in September 2016.
Blanco was accused in the killing of Amaya-Leonor.
When Gonzalez and Blanco were arrested in North Carolina in July, investigators seized machetes, firearms, ammunition, narcotics and MS-13 paraphernalia from them, according to court papers.
The two had left Long Island after the killings, according to sources familiar with the cases.
In all, eight adults and two juveniles, allegedly members of MS-13, were charged in a total of six killings in 2016 and 2017 in the Long Island part of the crackdown.
The alleged MS-13 members believed all the six victims were members or associates of the rival 18th Street gang, another street gang operating in Nassau, according to court papers filed by Eastern District federal prosecutors Paul Scotti, Justina Geraci, and Megan Farrell.
The six adult MS-13 members are eligible for the death penalty, if the government should chose to seek it, and if they are convicted.
U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph Bianco in Central Islip said he would appoint a second attorney, experienced in representing defendants in death-penalty-eligible cases, for both Gonzalez and Blanco as is customary in such cases.
Bianco also ordered Blanco and Gonzalez held without bail as a risk of flight and a danger to the community during the brief arraignments.
The arraignments were held telephonically.
Attorneys for Blanco and Gonzalez could not immediately be reached.
In a second unrelated part of the crackdown involving Long Island, officials also announced in July that an MS-13 leader in Suffolk County, Alexi Saenz, would face the death penalty if convicted of seven other murders he had previously been charged with, including that of two teenage Brentwood High School girls, Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens.
If Saenz is executed, it would be first federal imposition of the death penalty involving a murder in New York since 1954.
One of the victims in Wednesday’s case, Amaya-Leonor, was lured to “a secluded wooded area deep in the Roosevelt Preserve to smoke marijuana,” according to court papers filed by federal prosecutors.
The victim, Pineda, was also lured “to a secluded wooded-area” in this instance on the Merrick-Freeport border, and was surrounded by MS-13 members “who took turns hacking and slashing him with their machetes,” the papers said.
Pineda’s body was then buried in a hole that had been dug the day before, the papers said. In addition to the crackdown involving Long Island cases, officials announced at the same time MS-13 arrests in Virginia and Nevada. In the Virginia case, an MS-13 member was charged for the first time with terrorism-related offenses, including providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to finance terrorism in El Salvador, according to officials.
In the Nevada case, 13 members of MS-13 in Las Vegas and Los Angeles were charged with a number of felonies, including transporting large quantities of methamphetamines from California for sale in Nevada, officials said.