MS-13 gang indicted in 3 Long Island teen deaths

- Federal agents on Thursday announced the arrests and indictments of members of a violent El Salvadorian street gang accused of killing three teenagers last year, including two girls who were inseparable best friends at their Long Island high school.

Nisa Mickens, 15, and Kayla Cuevas, 16, were slaughtered in a residential neighborhood near an elementary school in a Sept. 13 attack that came amid a national conversation about illegal immigration. Last December, Donald Trump referenced the killings in Brentwood during a profile for his Time magazine "Man of the Year" award after being elected president.

Thirteen members of the MS-13 gang are facing federal charges in connection with the investigation, though not all are being charged in the killings, officials said. Of those indicted, 10 are illegal aliens, two are U.S. citizens and one is a green card holder. Two members are still on the loose.

Four gang members who go by the names Funny, Blasty, Flash, and Turkey were charged in connection to seven killings. They pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Thursday. A judge ordered them held. Their next court date is Aoril 10. They are all in the country illegally.

"For far too long on Long Island MS-13 has been meting out its own version of the death penalty against members of their gang, rival gangs or anyone they wish to seek revenge against," U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said.

Within a few weeks of the girls' deaths, the remains of three other Brentwood teens were found hidden in secluded areas. The victims included Jose Pena-Hernandez, 18, who had vanished in June.

It was a five-month investigation. Brothers Funny and Blasty, whose real names are Alexi and Jairo Saenz, led the "Sailors" clique. They allegedly gave their members the go-ahead to kill Cuevas and Mickens because of disputes over social media involving members of the gang.

The feds say the gang targeted Pena-Hernandez, a known member of MS-13, because they suspected he had violated the gang's rules. His bones had marks of repeated stab wounds and beatings with a bat or blunt object, Capers said. A juvenile MS-13 member was also charged in Pena-Hernandez's death. By statute, the case remains under seal.

Those indicted face several charges including racketeering, seven murders, attempted murders, assaults, obstruction of justice, arson, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, and related firearms and conspiracy charges.

Capers and local police officials held a midday press conference to discuss the charges and announce the names of those indicted:

Edwin Amaya-Aanchez ("Strong")

Age:  29
Brentwood, New York

William Castellanos ("Dizzy" and "Satanico")
Age:  20
Central Islip, New York

Slevin Chavez ("Flash")
Age:  19
Brentwood, New York

Jhonny Contreras ("Muerte," "Reaper" and "Conejo")
Age:  23
Brentwood, New York

German Cruz ("Bad Boy")
Age:  18
Brentwood, New York

Jonathan Hernandez ("Travieso" and "Kraken")
Age:  19
Brentwood, New York

Elmer Alexander Lopez ("Smiley," "Little Smiley" and "Alex")
Age:  19
Central Islip, New York

Reynaldo Lopez-Alvarado ("Mente")
Age:  24
Brentwood, New York

Enrique Portillo ("Oso" and "Turkey")
Age:  19
Brentwood, New York

Alexi Saenz ("Blasty" and "Big Homie")
Age:  22
Central Islip, New York

Jairo Saenz ("Funny")
Age:  19
Central Islip, New York

Gang violence has been a problem in Brentwood and some surrounding Long Island towns for more than a decade, but Suffolk County police and the FBI began pouring resources into a crackdown after the killings of the high school girls sparked outrage.

Some people complained that police, school officials and others were not doing enough to stem the violence. Since then, police have arrested more than 125 suspected MS-13 gang members in Brentwood and elsewhere. MS-13 has been blamed for at least 30 other killings on Long Island since 2010.

One of Trump's priorities is a crackdown on immigrants who are in the country illegally and have committed crimes. He promised as much in his December interview with Time magazine, when he referenced a Newsday story about the killings.

"They come from Central America. They're tougher than any people you've ever met," he said. "They're killing and raping everybody out there. They're illegal. And they are finished."

With The Associated Press

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