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Federal MS-13 crackdown rooted on Long Island, Madeline Singas says

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, shown in January,

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, shown in January, on Wednesday praised an investigation into MS-13 on Long Island by her deputy chief and Nassau detectives. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The crackdown on MS-13 announced Wednesday by President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr took place in Washington — but its roots are firmly planted on Long Island, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.

Much of the evidence supporting the 24-count indictment charging eight alleged MS-13 members with racketeering offenses in connection with six killings and other crimes came from wiretaps and additional evidence gathered by Nassau police and prosecutors, she said.

“We are so proud of the role we played in this,” Singas said.

She credited Jared Rosenblatt, the deputy chief of the Nassau District Attorney General’s Major Offenses Bureau, and two Nassau police detectives, for conducting a yearslong investigation using wiretaps and other sources of evidence to figure out how MS-13 is organized and operates.

“They have gotten to the heart of this organization,” Singas added.

Trump and Barr announced that federal prosecutors would seek the death penalty for Alexi Saenz of Central Islip, the alleged leader of the Brentwood clique of MS-13 in the killings of two Brentwood girls and five others in a spate of gang violence on Long Island that began in 2016. 

Two of the eight men indicted, Victor Lopez-Morales and David Sosa-Guevara, pleaded guilty to murder and conspiracy in December in connection with the slaying of Roosevelt teen Angel Soler and are already serving lengthy prison sentences, Rosenblatt said.

Lopez-Morales, a high-ranking lieutenant in MS-13’s "Hollywood" clique who is also known as “Persa,” was sentenced in February by a Nassau County judge to 23 years to life in February. Sosa-Guevara, the leader of the "Hollywood" clique who is also known as “Risky,” was sentenced in February to 24 years to life.

A third man named in the indictment, Carlos Alfaro, was charged by Nassau prosecutors in February in two 2016 murders. Prosecutors said Alfaro, also known as “Russo,” confessed on video to the slayings of Josue Amaya Leonor and Carlos Ulises Ventura-Zelaya. The case against Alfaro is pending, although Singas said her office may drop its case and let federal prosecutors take over.

“Who can hold him the most accountable gets the case,” she said.

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder described the detectives who worked on the case with Rosenblatt as well as investigators who spent months searching for the remains of MS-13 victims in the Massapequa Preserve and other heavily wooded areas, “relentless.”

“No technology can replace the experience and work ethic of a good detective,” Ryder said.

Singas said that while it would be premature to declare victory against MS-13, which had been linked to more than two dozen homicides on Long Island between 2016 and 2017, law-enforcement officials on Long Island and beyond have had great success in reigning in the gang’s violence thanks to the wiretaps.

Singas said information gathered during the investigation led by Rosenblatt and Nassau police detectives has been shared with authorities in Suffolk, New York City, New Jersey, Maryland and El Salvador. Some of that information has been used to prevent other crimes, including killings and kidnappings. Other information has been used in criminal cases brought in other jurisdictions.

Police in those jurisdictions shared information with Nassau law-enforcement officials, providing agencies across the nation with information about how MS-13 works.

“We have gleaned so much information from that wire,” Singas said, “and we have used it to take down the major players in MS-13.”

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