Following an investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the FBI, four complaints were unsealed Thursday in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, variously charging 10 members and associates of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, a transnational criminal organization.
The members were charged with murder in-aid-of racketeering, attempted murder, murder conspiracy, related firearms offenses and marijuana distribution conspiracy.
This gang investigation was prompted by three murders, occurring on the street, at Kissena Park and on an elevated Subway Platform in Queens.
One defendant was arrested May 13 in Maryland. Five defendants were arrested May 14 in New York and California. On May 15, four defendants will be arrested and transferred to federal custody from detention facilities where they are currently held.
“Public executions are just another sobering example of the savagery that MS-13 engages in with the alleged criminal mayhem caused by those charged today,” said Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of HSI New York. “This multi-agency OCDETF investigation is an excellent example of how law enforcement at all levels will continue to use all available resources, aggressively exploit all available intelligence, and work as a unified team with a simple and singular goal – ridding the scourge of MS-13 from our communities.”
“The murders and crimes of violence allegedly committed by these defendants are trademark MS-13 offenses – cold-blooded, senseless and brutally violent – and pose a grave danger to the residents of our communities,” stated United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue. “Thanks to the hard work of federal and local law enforcement officers, the defendants will now face prosecution for the charged crimes. No matter what obstacles may arise, this office will not rest until our mission to eradicate the MS-13 threat is accomplished.”
“It is only through our joint efforts to relentlessly disrupt and dismantle this kind of senseless criminality that we can continue to keep New Yorkers safe. I applaud our NYPD detectives and our federal and local law enforcement partners for investigating and prosecuting this case,” stated NYPD Commissioner Dermot F. Shea.
“MS-13 members do all they can to propagate a violent, deadly image as a gang. Their calculation that shouting the gang’s name out in front of people on a subway platform will prevent anyone from interfering with a man being brutally beaten and murdered boggles the mind. Thanks to the work of the FBI Metro Safe Streets Task Force and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), their violent reputation won’t protect them from going to federal prison,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr.
Murder of Andy Peralta
As detailed in the complaints and the government’s detention letter filed earlier today, alleged MS-13 associate Juan Amaya-Ramirez is charged with the murder of 17-year-old Andy Peralta. On the night of April 23, 2018, Amaya-Ramirez and two others lured Peralta to Kissena Park in Flushing, Queens where they confronted him. Peralta had a tattoo of a crown on his chest which Amaya-Ramirez and the others mistakenly believed to be a symbol of the rival Latin Kings gang. The assailants fatally beat, stabbed and strangled Peralta. The victim’s tattoo was also slashed. Peralta’s assailants used Amaya-Ramirez’s iPhone to photograph Peralta’s corpse, while they displayed MS-13 gang signs with their hands. The photograph was found in Amaya-Ramirez’s iCloud account during a court-authorized search.
Murder of Victor Alvarenga
Alleged MS-13 associates Douglas Melgar-Suriano and Jairo Martinez-Garcia are charged with the murder of Victor Alvarenga, who was shot and killed near his home in Flushing, Queens. In the early morning of November 4, 2019, the two defendants and a third individual laid in wait for Alvarenga. The men approached Alvarenga, who was walking down the street. After walking with him briefly, Melgar-Suriano allegedly shot Alvarenga multiple times in the head and body. As Alvarenga writhed on the pavement, Martinez-Garcia also shot him.
Murder of Abel Mosso
Alleged MS-13 member Ramiro Gutierrez and alleged gang associates Tito Martinez-Alvarenga and Victor Lopez are charged with the murder of Abel Mosso on a subway platform in Queens. In the early afternoon of February 3, 2019, Lopez and Martinez-Alvarenga followed Mosso, who they believed to be a member of the rival 18th Street gang, onto the Number 7 train at the Main Street station in Flushing, trailed by Gutierrez. Lopez and Martinez-Alvarenga assaulted Mosso inside the subway car and then dragged him out onto the platform at the 90th Street station in Jackson Heights.
The defendants produced a gun, but Mosso wrestled it away. Gutierrez shouted in Spanish, “Nobody get involved, we’re MS-13, we’re going to kill him.” Gutierrez then grabbed the gun from Mosso and shot him multiple times, killing him. Law enforcement recovered a video posted on Facebook depicting the murder.
Conspiracy to Murder and Attempted Murder
Alleged MS-13 members Marlon Saracay-Lopez and Ismael Santos-Novoa, and alleged gang associate Emerson Martinez-Lara, are charged with conspiring between May 2019 and July 2019 to murder an MS-13 associate who failed to kill a rival gang member as ordered by Saracay-Lopez and Santos-Novoa. Saracay-Lopez, Santos-Novoa and alleged gang associate Victor Ramirez are also charged with attempting to murder an 18th Street gang member.
During the resulting shooting on August 25, 2019 in Jackson Heights, Queens, a co-conspirator wounded an innocent bystander in the leg.
Martinez-Garcia, Melgar-Suriano, Ramirez and Santos-Novoa are scheduled to make their initial appearances this afternoon via teleconference before United States Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy. Saracay-Lopez’s initial appearance will take place in United States District Court for the Central District of California. Martinez-Lara’s initial appearance will take place in the United States District Court in Maryland.
The charges in the complaints are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of the murders, Amaya-Ramirez, Melgar-Suriano, Martinez-Garcia, Gutierrez, Martinez-Alvarenga and Lopez face mandatory sentences of life in prison and are eligible for the death penalty.
If convicted of the firearms and attempted murder charges, Saracay-Lopez, Santos-Novoa and Ramirez face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison. If convicted, Martinez-Lara faces up to 15 years in prison for marijuana distribution conspiracy and murder conspiracy.
This case was investigated as part of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply. A special thanks to the Queens County District Attorney’s Office and the New York City Department of Investigation for their assistance in the investigation.
In fiscal year 2019, HSI agents made nearly 4,000 arrests of transnational gang members; of those, more than 300 were tied to MS-13.
Individuals across the world can report suspicious criminal activity to the HSI Tip Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Highly trained specialists take reports from both the public and law enforcement agencies on more than 400 laws enforced by HSI. Contact the toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form.
Both are staffed around the clock. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
The government’s case is being handled by the EDNY’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section.