DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Eastern District of New York

For Immediate Release

Thursday, February 15, 2018
Richard P. Donoghue
, United States Attorney
Contact: John Marzulli

Three MS-13 Gang Members Sentenced to Lengthy Sentences in Brooklyn Federal Court for Murder of 19-Year Old Man

Defendants Lured Victim from Queens to Long Island and Then Shot Him, Believing Victim Was Cooperating with Law Enforcement

Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, defendants Milton Contreras, Oscar Welman Espinoza-Merino and Jose Osmin Rubio were each sentenced by United States District Judge Margo K. Brodie following their convictions for the murder of a 19-year-old victim on Long Island in 2014. Contreras was sentenced to 27 years’ imprisonment, while Espinoza-Merino and Osmin Rubio were each sentenced to more than 24 years’ imprisonment. After serving their sentences, all three defendants will face deportation from the United States.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York; Ashan M. Benedict, Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, New York Field Division (ATF); and James P. O’Neill, Commissioner, New York City Police Department, announced the sentencings. Mr. Donoghue also expressed his appreciation to the Suffolk County Police Department for their assistance during the investigation.

"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," stated United States Attorney Donoghue. "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."

"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," stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez. "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."

"The individuals that committed this heinous act of violence are rightfully where they belong. While in prison, they can reflect on the terror and pain they inflicted on their community. Gangs like MS-13 that seek to terrorize the community putting citizens at fear for their lives should know that law enforcement is committed to rooting this evil from our society and making the streets safe for everyone," stated ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Benedict. "I would like to express my gratitude to the United States Attorney for prosecuting the case. I also would like to thank the Special Agents and Task Force Officers of the ATF’s Joint Firearms Task Force and our counterparts at HSI and the NYPD for diligently pursuing this case until justice was served."

As detailed in the superseding indictment, the three defendants—along with a fourth defendant convicted of the murder, Byron Lopez, who has not yet been sentenced—are members of the Jamaica, Queens and/or Brentwood, Long Island chapters of the violent street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as "MS-13." On February 25, 2014, Lopez, Espinoza-Merino, Contreras and Rubio 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 law enforcement. After Valverde arrived in Long Island, the co-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.

This case 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 criminal organization. The MS-13’s leadership is based in El Salvador and Honduras, but the gang has thousands of members across the United States. With numerous branches, or "cliques," the MS-13 is the largest and most violent street gang on Long Island. Since 2003, hundreds of MS-13 members, including dozens of clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in this district. A majority of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges for participating in murders, attempted murders, and assaults. Since 2010 alone, this Office has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 40 murders in the Eastern District of New York and has convicted dozens of MS-13 leaders and members in connection with those murders.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorney Alixandra Smith is in charge of the prosecution.

 

Defendants Sentenced Today:

OSCAR WELMAN ESPINOZA-MERINO (aka "Speedy" and "Petey")

  • Age: 35
  • Brentwood, New York

MILTON CONTRERAS (aka "Diabolico")

  • Age: 22
  • Brentwood, New York

JOSE OSMIN RUBIO (aka "Slow")

  • Age: 30
  • Brentwood, New York

Defendant Awaiting Sentencing:

BYRON LOPEZ
  • Age: 26
  • Queens, New York
  • E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 14-463 (MKB) (RER)

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Field Division: New York Field Division