CENTRAL ISLIP, New York — Thirteen members of the brutal gang MS-13 have been charged with terrorizing a Long Island town, killing seven people, including two teenage schoolgirls viciously beaten and hacked to death with bats and machetes.
Six of the gang bangers were charged with killing 15-year-old Nisa Mickens, and 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas, in Brentwood last September. Others were charged with murdering Brentwood High student Jose Pena-Hernandez, an 18-year-old member of the gang who had crossed his compatriots.
“The brutal murders of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, and the savage killing of Jose Pena, allegedly committed by these defendants, exemplify the depravity of a gang whose primary mission is murder,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Capers.
Ten of the 13 suspects are illegal immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras; two others are U.S. citizens and another holds a green card, prosecutors said.
The deaths of Mickens, Cuevas and Pena shone a national spotlight on gang violence in Brentwood, a tough town 45 miles east of New York City, and were even mentioned by President Trump in public remarks after his victory in November.
MS-13 was founded in the 1980s by Salvadorean immigrants in Los Angeles but has spread around the country and has strong ties to members in El Salvador.
Prosecutors say MS-13 is the largest and most violent street gang on Long Island and that since 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York has convicted dozens of MS-13 members for carrying out more than 35 murders.
Federal prosecutors say gang leaders Alexi ‘Blasty’ Saenz and his brother Jairo ‘Funny’ Saenz authorized the killings of Mickens and Cuevas. According to the indictment, Cuevas and some of her friends had a beef with some members of the gang. Mickens, who was Cuevas’ childhood friend, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Capers said.
Four others — two juveniles and Selvin ‘Flash’ Chavez and Enrique ‘Turkey’ Portillo then grabbed bats and machetes and savagely beat and hacked the girls to death.
A pair of fugitive gang members were charged along with, Elmer Alexander ‘Smiley’ Lopez, and German ‘Bad Boy’ Cruz, in the July stabbing death of fellow MS-13 member Jose Pena-Hernandez, who they believed had violated gang protocol.
His skeletal remains were found in a wooded area near the abandoned Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood in October.
If convicted, the men could face the death penalty or life in prison.
The indictment also charged others with four separate killings between 2013 and 2015. The gang members were also charged with drug dealing and numerous weapons were seized.