An MS-13 gang member from Brentwood has been arrested on federal racketeering charges — the seventh member of the notorious street gang charged federally since a crackdown spurred by a series of gang killings, Suffolk police said Thursday.
Police would not identify the suspect nor the specific allegations, except to say that the suspect is a known MS-13 gang member and is being charged under the federal RICO statute. Six others previously were taken into federal custody following six gang-related killings, including those of five teenagers in Brentwood last year.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said in an interview Thursday that his department’s latest arrest is part of his overall strategy to crush MS-13 and other street gangs operating in Suffolk County in the aftermath of the killings. But Sini would not address whether the federal charges are connected to the killings.
“This is a known MS-13 gang member and this is certainly yet another step in the right direction in this overall strategy and I’m optimistic that if we maintain our strategy and keep the pressure on, we’ll achieve our objectives,” he said.
Separately, Suffolk police have arrested more than 80 MS-13 gang members on various state charges since September, including gun and drug possession, as part of the crackdown. Police also have refused to identify them.
“We’re not going to stop until we’ve eradicated this gang, so we’ll be strategically targeting individuals for RICO prosecutions as well as making additional state arrests of known MS-13 gang members, and I’m confident that that strategy will result in more state and federal arrests,” Sini said.
The federal RICO statute, originally designed to help officials combat organized crime, allows for prosecution and civil penalties for participating in an “ongoing criminal enterprise.”
Sini launched a gang crackdown after the September 2016 killings of Nisa Mickens, 15, and Kayla Cuevas, 16, best friends who were found beaten to death near Loretta Park Elementary School. Gang officers and those from the firearms suppression team made lists of suspects from known gang members, then made arrests and debriefed the suspects.
Then came the discovery of the skeletal remains of three teenage boys who were reported missing months earlier in or around the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood — Oscar Acosta, 19, a Brentwood resident and student at the Ross Center, on Sept. 16, and Miguel García Morán, 15, of Brentwood, a student at Brentwood High School’s Sonderling Center, on Sept. 21. The remains of Jose Pena-Hernandez, 18, also of Brentwood, were unearthed on Oct. 17.
The deaths of Acosta and García Morán — who both were reported missing months earlier — were classified as homicides.
On Oct. 13, Dewann A.S. Stacks, 34, was beaten to death as he walked along American Boulevard in Brentwood in what police said was a gang killing.
Homicides in Suffolk County increased by 36 percent in 2016 over the previous year, from 25 in 2015 to 34 last year. Of the 2016 numbers, 13 were gang slayings, police said.