MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) - Three alleged members of the MS-13 street gang have been charged in the murders of four young men found hacked to death in a New York park in April, according to an indictment that was quietly unsealed Monday.
The three suspects were arraigned Thursday in U.S. District Court on Long Island, according to the attorney for one of the men. Their next court appearance is likely in September.
The indictment identified the defendants in the Long Island case as Alexis Hernandez, Santis Leonel Ortiz-Flores and Omar Antonio Villalta. An attorney for Ortiz-Flores declined to comment; it was unclear whether the other men had attorneys, or whether they were in custody.
A federal prosecutor declined to comment, saying any information released about the case would jeopardize an ongoing investigation.
Four young men between the ages of 16 and 20 were found hacked to death in a brutal massacre that authorities blamed on the MS-13 gang. The four were found with what police described as "significant trauma" wounds that Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said at the time indicated the work of MS-13.
The killings were among 11 that have struck the working-class immigrant communities of Brentwood and Central Islip, on eastern Long Island, since September. In all, 19 killings have been blamed on MS-13 since January 2016.
The brutal killings have attracted the attention of President Donald Trump, who in April sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Long Island to pledge assistance in cracking down on gang violence. Last week, the Republican president said in a Tweet that "MS-13 gangs are being removed."
In March, authorities announced the arrests of more than a dozen gang members, including some charged with killing two high school girls with baseball bats and machetes as they walked near their home.
The charges unsealed Monday were part of a superseding indictment involving those and other killings allegedly inflicted by MS-13 members.
MS-13, also called Mara Salvatrucha, is believed to have been founded as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by immigrants fleeing a civil war in El Salvador. It grew after some members were deported to El Salvador, helping turn that country into one of the most violent places in the world.
The gang is now a major international criminal enterprise, with tens of thousands of members in several Central American countries and many U.S. states.