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‘Brutal, cold-blooded, utterly senseless’: Nearly two dozen reputed MS-13 gang members indicted in murder conspiracy

A still frame from a video recovered from Juan Amaya-Ramirez’s iCloud account shows Leyla Carranza and Amaya-Ramirez flashing MS-13 hand signs, prosecutors said in court documents. (Photo from court documents)

A still frame from a video recovered from Juan Amaya-Ramirez’s iCloud account shows Leyla Carranza and Amaya-Ramirez flashing MS-13 hand signs, prosecutors said in court documents. (Photo from court documents)

Nearly two dozen reputed members and associates of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang have been charged in three murders — including a 17-year-old boy lured to a park where he was beaten, stabbed and strangled — and a machete attack that terrorized communities in New York, federal authorities said.

A superseding indictment unsealed on Wednesday alleges the gang’s accused national leader, Edenilson Velasquez Larin, ordered murders, drug distribution, and money laundering for MS-13. Court documents also name 22 others in a laundry list of crimes.

Velasquez Larin is in immigration custody in Ohio, officials said. It is unclear whether he has an attorney.

“The murders and other crimes of violence allegedly committed by these defendants were brutal, cold-blooded, and utterly senseless,” said United States Attorney Breon Peace in a statement. “This office and our law enforcement partners are working tirelessly to dismantle the MS-13 at all of its levels, and we will not relent until this transnational criminal organization, its leaders, members, and associates are held accountable for the extreme violence and other criminal activity that they have perpetrated in our communities.”

Details about the alleged murders and attempted murders were spelled out in a court filing this week when prosecutors sought permanent detention orders against the suspects, arguing they pose a flight risk and are dangers to the community.

In one case, Leyla Carranza, her boyfriend, Juan Amaya-Ramirez, Oscar Flores-Mejia and another MS-13 associate are accused of killing 17-year-old Andy Peralta in 2018, court documents said. They wanted to join MS-13 and mistakenly believed Peralta was a rival gang member, prosecutors said.

“At the time, Amaya- Ramirez was dating defendant Leyla Carranza, who agreed to help her boyfriend and his friends to kill Peralta by luring him to his death in Kissena Park,” court documents said. “In furtherance of the murder plot, Carranza began to communicate with Peralta through social media, and Carranza convinced Peralta to meet for a romantic encounter in Kissena Park.”

On the evening of April 23, 2018, Peralta allegedly went to Kissena Park to meet Carranza. Once there, Peralta was confronted by Amaya-Ramirez, Flores-Mejia, and a third unidentified MS-13 associate, court documents said.

“The three men beat, stabbed, and strangled Peralta to death,” court documents said. “After the murder, Amaya-Ramirez took a photograph of Peralta’s body while he and his co-conspirators displayed MS-13 hand signs.”

The photograph was recovered from Amaya-Ramirez’s iCloud account, prosecutors said.

It’s unclear whether Carranza has an attorney. Attorneys for Amaya-Ramirez did not respond to a request for comment. Flores-Mejia’s lawyer declined to comment.

In another case, on Nov. 4, 2019, Douglas Melgar-Suriano and Jairo Martinez Garcia allegedly shot and killed Victor Alvarenga in a street near his home in Queens.

As Alvarenga’s body lay in the street, Tito Martinez Alvarenga allegedly arrived and — wearing gloves —  removed Alvarenga’s cellphone, prosecutors said.

Their lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Prosecutors alleged Velasquez Larin and another suspected MS-13 member from North Carolina ordered the murder, instructing MS-13 members to kill Alvarenga because he was falsely claiming to be a “homeboy” of the Hollywood Locos Salvatruchas clique of MS-13, prosecutors said.

According to cooperating witnesses, beginning in or about late 2019, the North Carolina member learned that rival 18th Street gangsters were increasing their presence in Elmont, New York, part of MS-13 territory, authorities said in court documents. As leaders of the FLS clique (Fulton Locos Salvatruchas), Velasquez Larin and the North Carolina member directed FLS members to patrol the Elmont neighborhood in search of 18th Street members to kill.

In spring 2020, Velasquez Larin also allegedly arranged for FLS members from Maryland to travel to New York to patrol the Elmont neighborhood along with FLS members from New York. Three MS-13 gangsters allegedly patrolled Elmont searching for 18th Street members to kill, court documents said. A group found someone believed to be an 18th Street member and allegedly shot at him.

Early Sept. 6, 2020, Oscar Hernandez Baires and another member allegedly shot and killed Eric Monge while sitting in his parked car near his home in Queens, New York, after a day at the beach with his wife and young children, court documents said.

“Monge’s wife had just taken their young children into their residence and returned to the car to find parking when Hernandez Baires and the other individual began shooting,” court documents said.

Monge had been a member of the Guanacos Lil Cycos Salvatruchas clique of MS-13 and had a dispute with Hernandez Baires that had resulted in Monge punching Hernandez Baires in an earlier incident, prosecutors said in court papers. Shortly after the murder, Hernandez Baires was promoted within the FLS clique, prosecutors said.

On July 29, 2021, an encounter with a rival Latin Kings gang member at a tobacco shop in Westbury, New York, led to a fistfight and MS-13 members chasing their rival with machetes in the street. The group slashed an unidentified Latin Kings member several times in the back and head before he managed to escape.

Later that night, a Latin Kings member stabbed an FLS member in the chest in retaliation.

Days later, in response, FLS clique members shot and wounded one of their rivals in the ankle.

The following month, another Latin Kings member posted a Facebook video of himself walking in MS-13 territory in Westbury, New York. He was shot in the face by FLS members.

The gangsters tried to shoot the rival additional times, “but their guns jammed,” court documents said.

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