Three MS-13 Gang Members Indicted on Racketeering Charges
A 29-count superseding indictment was unsealed yesterday in federal court in Central Islip, New York, charging MS-13 members Edwin Acosta-Martinez (“Scarface”), Sergio Cerna (“Taz” and “Lechon”), and Arnolvin Umanzor Velasquez (“Momia” and “Lito”), with the November 2, 2011 murder of Brandon Sotomayor in Baywood, NY, the December 18, 2011 double-murder of two brothers, Enston and Ricardo Ceron, in Brentwood, NY, four attempted murders which took place between May and December 2011, and multiple racketeering offenses related to those murders and attempted murders. The superseding indictment was returned under seal by a federal grand jury on May 13, 2015.
Velasquez was arrested yesterday morning in Flowery Branch, Georgia, by a Federal Bureau of Investigation SWAT team, and he was arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge E. Clayton Scofield, III, at the federal courthouse in Atlanta, where he was ordered to be removed in custody to the Eastern District of New York. Cerna and Acosta-Martinez are already in federal custody and will be arraigned this afternoon and next week, respectively, before United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco at the federal courthouse in Central Islip.
The charges were announced by Kelly T. Currie, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, FBI, New York Field Office.
“The execution-style killings of Brandon Sotomayor and the Ceron brothers, as well as the attempted murders charged in this superseding indictment, demonstrate the callous depravity of the MS-13,” stated Acting United States Attorney Currie. “This Office and the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force will continue to investigate and prosecute the MS-13 to ensure that the gang members are held accountable for their brutal acts.” Mr. Currie expressed his appreciation for the assistance provided by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office.
“MS-13 is a scourge on our communities. As alleged, the three defendants charged today with murder demonstrate the extraordinary violence of this gang. We continue to work with prosecutors and local law enforcement on Long Island to arrest and prosecute members of MS-13,” stated Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.
Cerna was charged in the underlying indictment with racketeering and firearms offenses relating to the May 12, 2011 and September 11, 2011 attempted murders of two suspected rival gang members, and an October 23, 2011 conspiracy to murder rival gang members which resulted in two men being shot and wounded. The superseding indictment adds charges against Cerna and Velasquez in connection with the December 18, 2011 murders of the Ceron brothers, Enston and Ricardo. As set forth in prior court filings and a detention letter, the Brentwood clique of the MS-13 (“BLS”) killed Enston Ceron because he was distancing himself from the gang by not attending meetings or “putting in work” for the gang, and they were concerned that he might cooperate with law enforcement authorities if he were arrested. The BLS clique also murdered his brother, Ricardo Ceron, who belonged to the Western clique of the MS-13, because they were concerned he would retaliate if he learned that the BLS killed his brother. On December 18, 2011, Cerna and Velasquez, who volunteered to carry out the murders and were armed with 9mm and .22 caliber semi-automatic handguns, asked Enston and Ricardo Ceron for a ride home from a party. When the car stopped in the vicinity of Lincoln Avenue and Stockton Streets in Brentwood, Cerna and Velasquez executed them, shooting them in the head and torso at close range. Cerna and Velasquez exited the car and when another vehicle approached the murder scene and stopped, Cerna fired multiple shots at the driver, striking him once in the chest. The driver survived the shooting.
Following the Ceron brothers’ murders, the BLS clique blamed the killings on the rival Latin Kings street gang and plotted a retaliation shooting with members of the Huntington clique of the MS-13, including Acosta-Martinez. On December 22, 2011, Acosta-Martinez and two other MS-13 members observed two suspected members of the Latin Kings in Brentwood. Acosta-Martinez, who was armed with a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, is charged with shooting one of the men in the arm before the suspected Latin Kings members fled. The victim survived that shooting.
Acosta-Martinez was also indicted in connection with his participation in the November 2, 2011 murder of Brandon Sotomayor and a series of armed robberies in 2011 and 2012. On the night of the Sotomayor murder, Acosta-Martinez and another MS-13 member, who was a juvenile at the time, agreed to “put in work” for the MS-13 by killing a rival gang member. Acosta-Martinez and his co-conspirator were armed with the same 9mm and .22 caliber semi-automatic handguns used to murder the Ceron brothers. While in the vicinity of Reilly Street in Baywood, Acosta-Martinez and his co-conspirator saw a car with three people, including Sotomayor, who was wearing a red hat and who they believed to be a member of the rival Bloods street gang. Acosta-Martinez and his co-conspirator approached the car and fired numerous shots at Sotomayor, striking him multiple times in the neck and torso and killing him.
The defendants are also charged with additional racketeering offenses, including assaults, obstruction of justice, armed robbery, and related firearms and conspiracy counts.
The superseding indictment is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York targeting members of the MS-13, a violent international street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras. With numerous branches, or “cliques,” the MS-13 is the largest street gang on Long Island. Since 2003, more than 250 MS-13 members, including dozens of clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. More than 150 of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges. Since 2010 alone, this Office has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 25 murders in the Eastern District of New York, and has convicted dozens of MS-13 members in connection with those murders. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, comprising agents and officers of the FBI, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, and Rockville Centre Police Department.
The charges in the superseding indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants face life in prison or the death penalty.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham and Raymond A. Tierney of the Long Island Criminal Division.
EDWIN ACOSTA-MARTINEZ (“Scarface”)
- Age: 26
- Huntington Station, New York
SERGIO CERNA (“Taz” and “Lechon”)
- Age: 31
- Brentwood, New York
ARNOLVIN UMANZOR VELASQUEZ (“Momia” and “Lito”)
- Age: 22
- Brentwood, New York and Flowery Branch, Georgia