By Jonathan Sperling
A dozen MS-13 members suspected of terrorizing rival gangs and at least one defector in Eastern Queens were indicted by a grand jury on murder, drug and weapons charges on Wednesday.
The 12 reputed members of the La Mara Salvatrucha street gang — more commonly known as MS-13 — are accused of plotting to kill rivals from the Latin Kings gang and man who tried to leave MS-13, said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
“This was a long-term investigation that not only thwarted a plot to kill an individual — a man trying to remove himself from this vicious street gang — but also resulted in taking would-be killers off our neighborhood streets," Brown said in a joint statement with NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill and Homeland Security Investigations New York Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez.
"Gang violence, intimidation and out-right ruthless brutality will not be tolerated in this county,” Brown continued. “These indictments are another example of how law enforcement and prosecutors can and will work together to stop the senseless killings in our communities.”
The main defendants in the two indictments handed down by the grand jury include Jorge “Terrible” Andrade, 35, who, along with six other MS-13 members, allegedly plotted to avenge the shooting and wounding of two fellow gang members. That alleged crime stemmed from a June 23 incident in which two reputed MS-13 members were shot at outside a bar on Sutphin Boulevard. An alleged Latin Kings member was later arrested for the shooting.
Soon after the incident, officials executed a warrant to tap Andrade’s phone and heard him discussing a retaliation hit on the Latin Kings.
The defendants later conducted their own surveillance of the targets, accessed firearms and discussed locations for the hit, including Rufus King Park in Jamaica. In August 2018, Andrade allegedly took photos of a potential target’s car and told other MS-13 members to kill the rival Latin King with a baseball bat to the head.
On Aug. 31, 2018, a reputed Latin King gang member was stabbed near the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road Station located at 94th Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard. After the stabbing, NYPD officers were called to a deli several blocks away and spotted defendants Dani Cruz, 26, and Maxwell Martinez, 25, with blood on their clothing and sneakers.
DNA testing revealed that the blood on their clothes and shoes belonged to the Latin King gang member who had been stabbed, prosecutors said. Video surveillance before the stabbing shows defendant Angel Romero, 20, chasing the victim to the location, where he was ultimately attacked, Brown said. Cruz and Maxwell were charged with attempted murder in October.
In a second indictment, Andrade and other MS-13 members are accused of plotting to kill a former MS-13 member after discovering that he had blacked out his MS-13 tattoo and had disassociated himself with the gang.
Through wiretaps, investigators overheard defendant Josue “Colocho” Levia, 21, allegedly discussing retrieving weapons for the hit. But, when the time and location were revealed, law enforcement raced to the scene, intervened and recovered a loaded .357 revolver and a .32 caliber firearm. Police said they also found cocaine and marijuana at the scene.
Brown noted that Levia, Romero and Ramiro “Caramalo” Gutierrez, 26, conspired to rob a home in Kew Gardens Hills and were overheard discussing their plans to steal $80,000 in cash that they believed to be in the home, but law enforcement intervened.
Other arrests in the investigation include two MS-13 members believed to be responsible for a metal pipe attack on two individuals on Sept. 1. Romero and co-defendant Steven Rivas, 24, are alleged to have beaten the two victims with a pipe and are charged with assault.
Police also executed a court-authorized search warrant on the home of defendant Jorge Rivera, 27, of 88th Avenue in Jamaica. There, they allegedly recovered 28 bags of cocaine and a fake pistol. Rivera is also charged in the indictment for conspiring to kill a rival gang member. Rivera’s father, Eusebio Rivera, was also arrested on weapons charges, Brown said.
Officers executing a search warrant at the 162nd Street home of Gutierrez said they recovered nine bags of marijuana, grinders containing marijuana, approximately 100 glassine envelopes, a scale, cannabis oil and a glass pipe containing cocaine. Gutierrez told investigators that he smokes to help his anxiety.
Investigators also conducted a search at the 94th Avenue residence of defendant Andrade. They said they recovered bags of cocaine, .22 caliber ammunition, .38 caliber cartridges, .9mm cartridges and .380 caliber bullets in the Andrade's bedroom.