DA Sini, DEA, HSI & SCPD Announce Indictment of Six MS-13 Gang Members for Allegedly Conspiring to Commit Murder
Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) New York, and the Suffolk County Police Department announced the indictment of six alleged MS-13 gang members in connection with conspiracies to commit two separate murders in Suffolk County.
“These were not empty threats; we’ve seen MS-13 gang members commit murders before of rival gang members and of their own associates who are accused of cooperating with law enforcement,” District Attorney Sini said. “Which is why we do not, and cannot, take the threat of MS-13 lightly. Had it not been for the excellent investigation and partnership of our office, the DEA, HSI and the Suffolk County Police Department, MS-13 would have committed these two murders right here in Suffolk County.”
Kevin Zuniga, a/k/a “Sharky,” 20, of Brentwood, is charged with two counts of Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a B felony, and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, an E felony.
Jose J. Portillo, a/k/a “Soldado,” 28, of Maryland, previously of Central Islip, is charged with two counts of Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a B felony, and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, an E felony.
Kevin Mejia Sandoval, a/k/a “Abuelo,” age 31, of Maryland, is charged with two counts of Conspiracy in the Second Degree, a B felony, and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, an E felony.
Gerver A. Chinchilla Perez, a/k/a “Antonio,” 22, of Brentwood, is charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree.
Emerson Hernandez Escobar, a/k/a “Wason,” 17, of Brentwood, is charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree.
Rafael Hernandez Elias, a/k/a “Poison,” 17, of Brentwood, is charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree.
The defendants are all identified by law enforcement as members of the Leeward clique of the MS-13 gang. Portillo, Zuniga, and Mejia Sandoval are alleged “homeboys” in the clique who, as leaders here in the United States, receive orders from MS-13 gang leaders in El Salvador and direct local members to carry out the gang’s missions.
An investigation that began in the summer of 2018 revealed evidence that Zuniga, Portillo and Mejia Sandoval allegedly conspired to murder a fellow member of MS-13 who they believed was cooperating with law enforcement.
“This goes to show how ruthless this gang is and is part of their M.O.: They conspire to kill rival gang members, but they also conspire to kill their own when they allegedly violate the rules of the gang,” District Attorney Sini said.
The investigation also revealed evidence of a second alleged conspiracy by Zuniga, Portillo and Mejia Sandoval, that included fellow gang members Chinchilla Perez, Hernandez Escobar, and Hernandez Elias, to commit the murder of a rival gang member from the 18th Street gang.
“Our intelligence shows that their plan was to kill him by shooting him with a firearm they planned on purchasing, butchering him with a machete, or by burning him to death,” District Attorney Sini said.
Mejia Sandoval is alleged to have received permission for the clique to commit both murders from MS-13 leaders in El Salvador.
All six defendants are also charged with Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree in connection with an alleged conspiracy to illegally purchase a loaded firearm for the clique to use to commit the murders.
“They would have been successful in obtaining that weapon, and likely successful in carrying out these murders had it not been for the hardworking men and women of law enforcement, particularly the DEA, HSI and the Suffolk County Police Department,” District Attorney Sini said.
Zuniga and Hernandez Escobar were arrested as part of HSI’s Operation Matador on May 30, 2017, and were released on bond on Aug. 1, 2017, and May 4, 2018, respectively. Mejia Sandoval was previously deported twice.
“The six defendants’ alleged crimes demonstrate the underbelly of the MS-13 gang’s operations by using violence, retaliation and threats,” said Ray Donovan, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s New York Division. “DEA and our law enforcement partners are committed to keeping our neighborhoods safe from drug trafficking and the associated violence.”
“There is no line that MS-13 will not cross, evidenced by their alleged conspiracy to kill even one of their own gang members,” said Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent in Charge of HSI New York. “HSI remains committed to stepping up its efforts to thwart MS-13 violence in Long Island, and by working collaboratively with DEA, SCPD and the Suffolk County District Attorney, we ensured that this alleged conspiracy to commit murder was not accomplished.”
“The Suffolk County Police Department remains committed to maintaining the successful strategies we have in place to decrease and prevent gang violence,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “We will continue to collaborate with law enforcement agencies to collect and share intelligence about gangs. We will not relent until we dismantle this violent street gang.”
Zuniga and Chinchilla Perez were arraigned on the indictment on Feb. 1 by Suffolk County Acting Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho. Bail was set for each defendant at $125,000 cash or $250,000 bond.
Hernandez Escobar and Hernandez Elias were arraigned on the indictment on Feb. 4 by Judge Camacho. Bail was set for each defendant at $200,000 cash or $400,000 bond.
Portillo was extradited from Maryland on Feb. 14 and arraigned on Feb. 15. Bail was set for Portillo at $200,000 cash or $400,000 bond
Mejia Sandoval was extradited from Maryland on March 22 and was arraigned today on the indictment. Bail was set for Mejia Sandoval at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.
If convicted of the top count, the defendants face a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison.
This case is being prosecuted by Christiana McSloy, Senior Investigative Counsel to the District Attorney, and Assistant District Attorney Melissa Bliss, of the Enhanced Prosecution Bureau.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.