For Immediate Release
Additional MS-13 Gang Member Indicted for Murder of 19-Year-Old Man in Long Island
Yesterday, a superseding indictment was unsealed charging the defendant, Oscar Wellman Espinoza-Merino, along with a previously-charged co-defendant, Byron Lopez, with conspiracy to commit murder in-aid-of racketeering, murder in-aid-of racketeering, obstruction-of-justice murder, and firearms offenses.1 If convicted, the defendant will face mandatory life imprisonment. Espinoza-Merino, who was arrested yesterday morning, was presented for arraignment yesterday afternoon at the United States Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York.
The charges and arrest were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Anthony Scandiffio, Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, New York Field Office (HSI); Delano A. Reid, Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives and Firearms, New York Field Division (ATF); and William J. Bratton, Commissioner, New York City Police Department.
“This Office has a long history of prosecuting and convicting members of the MS-13 gang, which for years has pursued its particularly brutal brand of violence and lawlessness in neighborhoods throughout Queens and Long Island,” stated U.S. Attorney Lynch. “This prosecution, which brings another alleged member of the gang to justice for a murder that disrupted one of our communities earlier this year, is part of our ongoing mission to dismantle MS-13 wherever and whenever it rears its head in this District.” Ms. Lynch thanked the Suffolk County Police
Department for its assistance with the investigation and the United States Marshals Service Regional Fugitive Task Force for its assistance in locating Espinoza-Merino.
“The indictment of two alleged members of the violent MS-13 street gang related to the brutal murder of a fellow gang member is another step in dismantling this transnational gang that has wreaked havoc on our neighborhoods,” said HSI Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge Scandiffio. “HSI will continue to aggressively work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners in New York to target MS-13 and other transnational gangs that threaten the safety of our communities.”
ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Reid stated, “As part of our Frontline strategy, the ATF has placed one of its highest priorities in the fight to combat violent crime. As alleged, this gang investigation involved depraved individuals who had no regard for human life. We are happy that yesterday’s arrest can now bring some consolation to the victim’s family, and we look forward to working with our law enforcement partners to swiftly locate and arrest any others who participated in this criminal enterprise.”
“Violent gangs such as MS-13 show complete disdain for life by carrying out heinous acts, such as the murder charged in this indictment, only to instill fear in our communities,” said Police Commissioner Bratton. “The NYPD along with our federal law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue these gang members and bring them to justice.”
As alleged in court documents, Espinoza-Merino is a member of the Brentwood, Long Island chapter of the violent street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as “MS-13.” On February 25, 2014, Espinoza-Merino, Lopez, and other members of the gang directed the victim, fellow gang member Sidney Valverde, to travel to Long Island under the false pretense that they needed him to assist in gang business there. In fact, the co-conspirators planned to kill Valverde because they believed that he was providing information about the gang’s activities to federal law enforcement. After Valverde traveled to Long Island, the conspirators shot him in the back of the head and left his body on Miller Place Beach in Suffolk County, where it was discovered by a beachcomber approximately two weeks later.
The indictment of Espinoza-Merino 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 chapters, or “cliques,” through the United States, MS-13 has a significant presence in Queens and is the largest street gang in 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 20 murders in the Eastern District of New York and has convicted more than 35 MS-13 members in connection with those murders.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Darren A. LaVerne and Alixandra E. Smith.
OSCAR WELLMAN ESPINOZA-MERINO, also known as “Speedy” and “Petey”
1 The charges contained in the indictments are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.