By: Zack Duvall
Federal authorities, along with officials from the Suffolk County police department in New York, announced the arrest and indictment of twelve members of the gang’s Long Island “clique” on murder and assault charges Wednesday morning.
The charges stem from the brutal April murder of four teenagers who were lured to a Long Island park by two female members of MS-13, only to be surrounded by the twelve gang members named in indictments and violently attacked with knives, machetes, and bats in what law enforcement officials have called a senseless “horrific frenzy of violence.”
“(The victims) were marked for death merely because they were suspected of disrespecting MS-13 and being rival gang members.” Federal prosecutors assigned to the case said in a statement released early Wednesday. Authorities involved with the investigation are expected to hold a formal press conference Wednesday evening outlining the charges and making public the identity of those charged in the sweeping case.
Suffolk County alone has seen the arrest of 160 suspected gang members since September, and has seen a recent spike in violence attributed to the gang, including the murders of the four teens in April.
The victims, Justin Llivicura, 16; Jorge Tigre, 18; Michael Lopez Banegas, 20; and Jefferson Villaboos, 18, are not the only teenage victims of the gang. In September, two teenage girls, both aged 15, were brutally attacked by Ms-13 gang members while walking in their Brentwood, New York neighborhood. The attackers in that case, who were arrested in March and are currently awaiting trial, were also wielding machetes and knives. Prosecutors in that case are seeking the death penalty for all charged.
The MS-13 gang, and the violence attributed to the gang, has led to multiple Congressional committee hearings about how federal authorities can help support local municipalities who are combating the gang’s presence in their areas. The White House has even issued formal statements on law enforcement efforts to combat the gang’s activities and prosecute its membership and hierarchy vowing support and tying the issue to efforts by the Trump administration to crackdown on illegal immigration.
MS-13, started in the 1980’s in a Los Angeles neighborhood by refugees fleeing civil war in El Salvador, is comprised of largely illegal immigrant membership with many of its U.S. members not being eligible to even apply for citizenship due to criminal charges and records. White House officials said “sanctuary” cities that fail to enforce federal immigration laws, or share resources and information with federal agencies, are directly responsible for the recent rise in violence by MS-13 because federal authorities rely on that communication to prosecute cases related to the gang.
Law enforcement officials declined to comment on any further potential indictments are possible in the future, and would not say whether or not these charges could be linked to other investigations into the gang’s operations.