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Long Island

MS-13's alleged East Coast leader decries jail conditions

Prosecutors have accused Miguel Angel Corea Diaz of carrying out major drug trafficking and conspiring on Long Island to commit murder.

Miguel Angel Corea Diaz leaves Nassau police headquarters

Miguel Angel Corea Diaz leaves Nassau police headquarters in Mineola on April 19. Photo Credit: Newsday

The New Jersey man whom prosecutors identified as the East Coast leader for the notoriously violent MS-13 gang portrayed himself as a devoted father in a recent plea to a Nassau judge, saying he was suffering in lockdown at the county’s jail.

Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, 35, spoke while handcuffed and guarded by court officers as he begged acting State Supreme Court Justice Patricia Harrington to intervene to improve the conditions of his local imprisonment.

“Discrimination. I’m suffering in this county. They call me ‘El Chapo.’ Die, scary guy,” Corea Diaz said on July 31 in Nassau County Court, referencing the accused Mexican drug kingpin who Brooklyn prosecutors say smuggled 20 tons of cocaine into the United States and is awaiting trial.

Corea Diaz also told the judge in court he has received “a lot of death threats,” but they weren’t coming from inside Nassau’s jail.

Prosecutors have accused Corea Diaz of carrying out major drug trafficking and conspiring on Long Island to commit murder. At his April arraignment, he pleaded not guilty to three counts of operating as a major drug trafficker and five counts of second-degree conspiracy.

He was one of 17 suspects named in a January indictment that authorities said delivered a heavy blow to MS-13’s infrastructure after a probe that included a $1 million heroin seizure and the foiling of murder plots involving a Long Island clique of the gang.

MS-13 gang members have killed at least 25 people in Nassau and Suffolk counties since 2016, authorities have said. President Donald Trump, who has blamed gang violence and other crime on illegal immigration, came to Brentwood in July last year and described some Long Island neighborhoods as a “bloodstained killing fields” that are “under siege” and need to be liberated from MS-13.

The Nassau district attorney’s office has alleged that Corea Diaz, known on the street as “Reaper,” reported directly to the transnational gang’s leaders in El Salvador and said he faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the top charge against him.

But Corea Diaz spoke of himself as a family man who misses his children.

“I’m a human being, I have a family. I have children. . . . I’m not able to talk to them,” the Salvadoran citizen told Harrington through a Spanish-language translator. “It’s about time that I speak to them because when I get deported, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to speak to them again.”

The defendant’s attorney, Scott Gross, told the judge his client has been locked in a cell for about 23 hours a day at Nassau County’s jail and only has “limited access to a phone.”

“The conditions have been unbearable,” the Garden City lawyer said in his second recent court appeal for an improvement in his client’s jail housing.

In April, authorities extradited Corea Diaz to New York from Maryland, where he was jailed in Prince George’s County Detention Center on felony drug charges. Gross said in an interview his client was in the Maryland jail’s general population and hasn’t been involved in any incidents at Nassau’s jail.

A Nassau County spokeswoman said officials had no comment in response to a Newsday inquiry directed at the sheriff’s department in regard to Corea Diaz’s jail housing and claims in court.

Court records show the district attorney’s office in June gave Corea Diaz a plea bargain offer of 7 to 21 years in prison that included a waiver of his right to appeal the conviction.

District attorney’s office spokeswoman Miriam Sholder said plea negotiations with Corea Diaz are ongoing. She called his arrest “the result of an unprecedented investigation with the DEA and many other jurisdictions, which are still reviewing potential criminal charges against him.”

Sholder added that her office “continues to work with those agencies as our case progresses.”

Phone recordings that are evidence in the case are being translated from Spanish to English, as the judge reviews grand jury minutes before Corea Diaz’s next court appearance in September.

Harrington told Corea Diaz she didn't "really have any control over where the jail houses various inmates." But she said she would call to inquire about the reason behind the manner of his housing and see “what provisions can be made" about getting him phone access — which she said he should have.

“Thank you. God bless you,” Corea Diaz replied.

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