A Queens County jury has indicted 12 members of La Mara Salvatrucha street gang — otherwise known as MS-13 — on charges of attempted murder, burglary, possession of controlled substances and possession of armed weapons.
The main defendants are accused of plotting to murder members of rival gang the Latin Kings, planning the execution of a former MS-13 member and plotting to steal $80,000 cash from a Kew Gardens home.
Officers involved used “various investigative techniques” including “court-authorized wiretaps, video and physical surveillance,” according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
Officers overheard — via wiretaps — seven members of MS-13 discussing possible hit locations include Rufus King Park in Jamaica.
“Gang violence, intimidation and out-right ruthless brutality will not be tolerated in this county,” District Attorney Richard Brown said. “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 indicted include Dani “Chino” Cruz, 26, of Jamaica; Ramon “Cruzito” Martines, 35, from Hempstead, Long Island; Maxwell Martinez, 25, from Jamaica; Johan Cruz-Valle, 20, of Jamaica; Oscar “Coca” Velasquez Moreno, 20, from Brentwood, Long Island; Josue “Colocho” Levia, 21, from Richmond Hill; Victor “Panda” Manuel, 20, from Richmond Hill; Jorge “Jester” Rivera, 27, from Jamaica; Steven Rivas, 24, from Jamaica; Dioni “Peligro” Navarro, 27, from Jamaica; Angel “Chamuco” Romero, 20, from Jamaica; and Brandon “Little Boy” Tzul,21, also from Jamaica.
The majority of the indicted are facing up to 25 years in prison.
Cruz-Valle was charged with three counts of fourth-degree criminal sale of marijuana and unlawful possession of marijuana. If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail. Rivas, if convicted, faces up to seven years in prison for the charges of second-degree assault, second-degree attempted assault and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. They are the only two facing relatively shorter sentences.
Levia, Manuel, Moreno and Navarro are the only four of the 12 men indicted being held on bail.
Levia was charged with one count of second-degree conspiracy, one count of fourth-degree conspiracy, one count of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, four counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, two-counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, one count of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, one count of sale, possession or use of an unlawful imitation pistol and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana. Levia faces up to 43 years in prison which will be decided during his next court appearance, which is scheduled for Jan. 2, 2019.
When arraigned before Queens Supreme Court Justice Barry Schwartz, bail was set at a $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash.
Manuel, who was also arraigned before Queens Supreme Court Justice Barry Schwartz, faces up to 40 years in prison. During the arraignment, Manuel’s next court appearance was scheduled for Feb. 26, 2019. Bail was set at $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash.
Manuel was charged with one count of second-degree conspiracy, two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, one count of sale, possession or use of an unlawful imitation pistol and one count of second-degree attempted criminal possession of a weapon.
Moreno, arraigned by the same Supreme Court justice, is being held on a $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash. He was charged with one count of second-degree conspiracy and his next scheduled court date is Feb. 27, 2019. Moreno faces up to 25 years in prison.
Navarro, who was also arraigned by Schwartz, was charged with one count of second-degree conspiracy. Like Moreno he faces up to 25 years in prison and is being held at a $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash. Navarro’s next court appearance is set for Feb. 28, 2019.
Three of the indicted — Cruz, Martines and Martinez — have been charged with one count of second degree conspiracy and are facing up to 25 years in prison.
Rivera, was charged in two separate indictments each with one count of second-degree conspiracy and faces up to 50 years in prison. Romero was charged with one count of second-degree conspiracy, one count of fourth-degree conspiracy, one count of second-degree assault, one count of second-degree attempted assault and one count of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
If convicted, he faces up to 36 years in prison. Tzul is being charged with one count of second-degree conspiracy and was expected to be arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on Dec. 12.
According to a press release from the District Attorney’s office, he is expected to be arraigned in Queens Supreme Court on Dec. 12. Tzul was also charged in a criminal complaint with endangering the welfare of a child and unlawful possession of marijuana. If convicted, he faces up to 50 years in prison.
A representative from the District Attorney’s office told TimesLedger that no information about the start date of the “long-term investigation” could be shared with the public. The investigation was headed by the New York City Police Department’s Queens South Gang Squad with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Queens District Attorney’s Gang Violence and Hate Crimes Bureau.
“The NYPD, in close cooperation with our partners at Homeland Security Investigations and the Queens District Attorneys Office, are making New Yorkers safer by focusing our significant resources on the relatively small percentage of criminals responsible for much of our city’s crime and disorder,” said Police Commissioner James O’Neill.
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