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Juan Garcia, suspect in mom, toddler killing, added to FBI's Most Wanted list

Juan Garcia, 21, a member of the MS-13

Juan Garcia, 21, a member of the MS-13 street gang who has lived in Baldwin, Central Islip and Inwood, is wanted in the February 2010 slaying of his former girlfriend, Vanessa Argueta, of Hempstead, and her son, Diego Torres, officials said at the New York FBI's Manhattan headquarters. Credit: FBI

A Long Island gang member sought in the execution-style murders of his 19-year-old former girlfriend and her toddler son was added Wednesday to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

A $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of Juan Garcia, 21, a member of the MS-13 street gang who has lived in Baldwin, Central Islip and Inwood.

Garcia is wanted in the February 2010 slayings of Vanessa Argueta and her 2-year-old son, Diego Torres, officials said at the New York FBI's Manhattan headquarters.

"The moral depravity displayed by Garcia" should motivate those who know of his whereabouts to turn him in, said Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Garcia and Argueta, of Hempstead, were romantically involved, but what was more important to Garcia was "his loyalty to the international killing machine known as MS-13," Lynch said. "Their romance could not overcome MS-13 . . . and Vanessa had to die."

Lynch called MS-13 "the largest and most violent street gang we have to deal with on Long Island."

Officials said that since about 2000, federal prosecutors and the FBI's Long Island Gang Task Force have convicted 250 MS-13 members and solved 20 murders on Long Island.

George Venizelos, head of the New York office of the FBI, said Garcia was last seen in Honduras in 2011, working in a clothing store.

Garcia is the first member of MS-13 to be added to the FBI's most-wanted list, Venizelos said.

Three other Long Island members of MS-13 have been convicted in federal court in Central Islip in the murders of Argueta and her son.

Heriberto Martinez, 27, of Far Rockaway, a leader of the Brentwood clique of the gang, was sentenced to life in prison in December after being convicted of approving the killing of Argueta, and then helping the killers flee.

Awaiting sentencing in connection with the killings are Rene Mejia, 20, of Brentwood and Patchogue, and Adalberto Guzman, 21, of Central Islip. They also are facing life in prison.

Argueta was lured to a vacant lot in Central Islip and shot because she had "disrespected" Garcia, according to testimony in related cases. After they quarreled, she unsuccessfully tried to get members of the rival 18th Street Gang to harm him, co- operating witnesses said.

Argueta thought she was being taken out to a restaurant on Feb. 5, 2010, by Garcia and other MS-13 members. She couldn't get a baby-sitter for the toddler, so she took him along, the witnesses said.

After Argueta was killed, one of the men shot Diego in the head. The wounded boy got up, crying and screaming, and grabbed Garcia's leg. Guzman then fired a second shot that killed the boy, officials said.

One of Garcia's accomplices said they had to kill the toddler because he could grow up and seek revenge on his mother's killers, according to Eastern District federal prosecutors John Durham and Raymond Tierney.

Garcia is wanted for murder conspiracy, racketeering and other crimes, authorities said.

The FBI said 470 of the 500 fugitives who have appeared on the most-wanted list since it began in 1950 have been captured. Tips from ordinary citizens resulted in 156 of the arrests.

The list was started after a reporter asked then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover who were the "toughest guys" he would like to have arrested. The resulting article generated so much favorable publicity that the bureau decided to institutionalize the concept, according to the FBI's website.

Wanted posters are no longer hung in post offices, but the list is disseminated on the Internet and fugitives are spotlighted on a network television show.

Anyone with information about Garcia is urged to call 800-CALL-FBI or contact a local FBI office.

People who are overseas should contact the closest U.S. embassy or consulate.



FBI's Most Wanted with Long Island ties


A handful of people on FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list have had LI ties, such as:

Charles Johnson: He was wanted for robbing a bank in North Carolina. Johnson, who had a long criminal record, was arrested in Central Islip in 1953 after a tipster recognized his picture.

Samuel and Earl Veney: The brothers were wanted for a Baltimore robbery spree in which a police officer was killed. The Veneys were arrested in Hempstead in 1965. The tip came from a federal agent who recognized one of the brothers from the wanted poster.

Carmine Persico: The Colombo crime family boss was wanted for racketeering. He was arrested in 1985 in the Wantagh home of a relative who turned him in for reward money.

Sources: FBI, news reports

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