New Top Ten Fugitive
MS-13 Member Wanted for Double Murder
Update: Juan Elias Garcia surrendered to authorities at the U.S. Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua on March 27, 2014.
Juan Elias Garcia, wanted for the execution-style murder of a 19-year-old New York woman and her 2-year-old son, has been named to the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information leading directly to the arrest of Garcia, who is alleged to be a member of the violent Mara Salvatrucha gang—MS-13—and may be hiding in El Salvador.
“Garcia’s callous disregard for human life resulted in the senseless murder of a young mother and her helpless 2-year-old son,” said George Venizelos, assistant director in charge of our New York Field Office. “His appointment to the FBI’s Top Ten list illustrates not only the seriousness of his crimes but our commitment to seeking justice for his victims.”
The murders occurred in Central Islip, New York in 2010. At that time, Garcia—who is known by the nickname “Cruzito”—was 17 years old.
“MS-13 is the most violent gang here of any of the street gangs,” said Special Agent Reynaldo Tariche, who investigated the case with other members of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force. While gang-related murders are not uncommon on Long Island, “the execution of a 2-year-old and his mother is a new low even for MS-13,” Tariche noted.
Garcia had a romantic relationship with the 19-year-old victim, Vanessa Argueta, who had ties to the 18th Street gang and the Latin Kings, two of MS-13’s rivals. After a falling out between Argueta and Garcia, rival gang members allegedly threatened Garcia. When he relayed that information to fellow MS-13 members—that he had been threatened because of information provided by Argueta—it was decided to retaliate against her.
“They were going to kill her for disrespecting the gang,” said Special Agent James Lopez, also a member of the task force. According to gang code, Lopez explained, “it is unacceptable for MS-13 members to have girls they associate with be involved with rival gang members.”
“Garcia was an enthusiastic murderer,” Tariche said. “He was the reason why this happened. He was the one who decided to get the gang involved. It wasn’t about a boyfriend-girlfriend dispute. This was about disrespecting the gang. And the penalty for that is death.”
On February 4, 2010, Garcia invited Argueta to dinner but instead lured her and her son into the woods. Along with two other MS-13 members, he executed her with two shots from a handgun while her son looked on. The gun was then turned on the child. The first shot knocked him to the ground but did not kill him. The boy got up and clutched at Garcia’s leg, but another gang member shot again and killed him
Garcia should be considered armed and dangerous. He is 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighs 125 pounds, and has black hair and brown eyes. He is known to speak Spanish and English and has ties to Santa Rosa de Lima in El Salvador as well as Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama. His two co-conspirators have been convicted of murder and are awaiting sentencing. A fourth defendant charged in connection with the murders—Garcia’s MS-13 leader—has been sentenced to three terms of life in prison, plus 60 years.