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Gang member testifies against MS-13 leader in murder trial

An MS-13 street gang member cooperating with the government testified Monday that a leader of the group told him three other gang members were helped to flee to El Salvador after killing two people.

Carlos Martinez, 22, of Far Rockaway, testified in U.S. District Court in Central Islip that gang leader Heriberto Martinez, 25, also of Far Rockaway and no relation to the witness, told him that he provided money and "references" for the three gang members to use in El Salvador after the 2010 murders of two people he presumed were a young mother who had a relationship with a gang member and her 2-year-old son.

Witness Martinez testified through a Spanish interpreter.

Gang leader Martinez is on trial in connection with five killings, including that of Vanessa Argueta, 19, of Hempstead, and conspiracy after the fact in the killing of her young son, Diego Torres, 2.

The "references" were for the killers to give to MS-13 members in El Salvador vouching for them as MS-13 members in the United States, and to give them assistance, including, "food, clothing, whatever they needed," the witness testified under questioning by Assistant United States Attorney Carrie Capwell.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco has barred the anonymous jurors from knowing that Torres was Argueta's son or that he was 2, ruling it was too prejudicial.

One of gang leader's Martinez's attorneys, Elizabeth Macedonio, got witness Martinez to acknowledge under cross-examination that starting as a preteen he had a lengthy history of violent acts with MS-13 in El Salvador and the United States.

In an apparent attempt to undermine the witness' credibility, Macedonio also got him to admit to instances of beatings, shootings and plots to kill people that were not carried out.

Witness Martinez has pleaded guilty in one of the killings that gang leader Martinez is charged with, that of a security guard at a Hempstead bar, Nestor Moreno, 22, and conspiracy in a second case that the leader is also charged with, that of a fellow gang member, Mario Quijada, 25, of Far Rockaway.

When Macedonio asked him if he even "wanted to be the shooter" in the bar guard's killing, Martinez responded "Yes." Eventually, he testified earlier, he held the bar door open, while another gang member shot the security guard to death.

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