National Security

MS-13 Gang Members Sentenced to Decades in Prison for Murder, Will Later Face Deportation

Members of MS-13 flash their gang gesture / Getty Images
Members of MS-13 flash their gang gesture / Getty Images

Three members of the transnational drug gang MS-13 were sentenced to prison on Thursday for the execution-style murder of a 19-year-old fellow member of the gang.

The United States District Judge Margo K. Brodie sentenced gang member Milton Contreras to 27 years in prison, while Oscar Welman Espinoza-Merino and Jose Osmin Rubio received 24-year sentences, according to the Justice Department. A fourth MS-13 member, Byron Lopez, was convicted of charges but is awaiting sentencing.

The three members were convicted in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, for the murder of their fellow gang member Sidney Valverde. They suspected Valverde was working with law enforcement by leaking information on gang activities.

After serving their time behind bars, the three sentenced felons will face deportation from the United States.

In February 2014 the MS-13 gang member directed Valverde to travel to Long Island where he believed he would be assisting in "gang business." Instead, his fellow gang members planned to kill him. When he arrived in Long Island, the four members shot him and left his body on Miller Place beach in Suffolk County, N.Y.

The victim was discovered by a beachcomber approximately two weeks later.

This case is the latest in the series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney office for the Eastern District of New York against the international criminal organization.

"Today’s sentence marks the final chapter in the pursuit of justice against these three MS-13 gang members who brutally murdered a teenager execution-style when they suspected him of cooperating with law enforcement," United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said. "This prosecution is part of the ongoing mission of this Office to protect the residents of this district from the violence and lawlessness of MS-13, and we will not rest until the MS-13 criminal organization is entirely dismantled."

There remain thousands of MS-13 members across the United States directed by the gang's leadership in El Salvador and Honduras. Hundreds of the MS-13 branches or "cliques" have leaders who have been federally charged with felonies by the District since 2003.

Despite a majority of those members being convicted on racketeering charges for their participation in murders, attempted murders, and assaults, MS-13 remains the largest and most violent street gang on Long Island. Since 2010, the office of the Eastern District of New York has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with more than 40 murders, along with dozens of convictions connected to those murders.

"It is not a secret that MS-13 gang members are violent for the sake of being violent, and in this particular case exhibited their murderous ways by executing a teenager in Long Island," HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez said. "As they use violence to seek power through instilling fear into the neighborhoods in which they live, we will be relentless working with our partners to dismantle this vicious gang and bring peace back to the communities."