Defendant and Co-Conspirators Murdered a Suspected Assassin, Who They Believed Had Killed MS-13 Members in El Salvador.
Long Island, NY - April 11, 2018 - On Tueday, April 10, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, Edwin Amaya-Sanchez (“Strong”), a member of the Guanacos Little Cycos Salvatruchas clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, pleaded guilty to firearms-related murder charges in connection with his participation in the July 14, 2014 murder of Jose Lainez-Murcia, who was shot and killed while sitting in a car outside his home in Brentwood. The guilty plea was entered before United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Stuart J. Cameron, Acting Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), announced the guilty plea.
“Amaya-Sanchez admitted that he participated in the planning and execution of a murder on Long Island in which the victim was marked for death because he was suspected of having killed MS-13 gang members in El Salvador,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “This Office and our partners on the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force will continue working tirelessly to eliminate MS-13 and the threat this transnational criminal enterprise presents to our community.”
“MS-13 believes it can operate with its own form of vigilante justice, without any repercussions,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “The FBI Long Island Gang Task Force won't allow them to continue terrorizing the community, acting outside of the law.”
“The Suffolk County Police Department is committed to working with our law enforcement partners in bringing criminal gang members and their associates to justice,” stated SCPD Acting Commissioner Cameron. “This guilty plea of a murderer will send a strong message to gangs across Long Island that illegal activities will not be tolerated.”
As set forth in prior court filings and the defendant’s statements during his guilty plea, Amaya-Sanchez and other MS-13 members orchestrated the murder of Lainez-Murcia because they suspected that Lainez-Murcia was an assassin who had killed MS-13 members in El Salvador. Amaya-Sanchez knew where Lainez-Murcia lived, what car he drove, and what time he left for work in the morning, because they previously worked together. In the early morning hours of July 14, 2014, Amaya-Sanchez drove two other MS-13 members, each of whom was armed with a 9mm handgun, to Lainez-Murcia’s neighborhood and dropped them off. When Lainez-Murcia left the house and entered his car, the MS-13 members approached and fired multiple times with the 9mm handguns, killing him. The two MS-13 members ran down the block where Amaya-Sanchez picked them up and drove away.
Amaya-Sanchez, an illegal alien from El Salvador who previously was deported from the United States and illegally returned, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life in prison when sentenced by Judge Bianco on October 17, 2018. Upon completion of his sentence, the defendant faces deportation from the United States.
Today’s conviction 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, comprised primarily of immigrants from Central America. 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 the Eastern District of New York. A majority of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges for participating in murders, attempted murders and assaults. Since 2010, this Office has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 45 murders in the district, and has convicted dozens of MS-13 leaders and members in connection with those murders. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, comprising agents and officers of the FBI, SCPD, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, Rockville Centre Police Department, the New York State Police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Paul G. Scotti, Michael T. Keilty and Raymond A. Tierney are in charge of the prosecution.