Eight members of the transnational street gang MS-13 have been indicted for six murders on Long Island in New York state, according to a recently unsealed indictment.
The defendants were involved in a series of brutal murders in 2016, federal officials said.
In one case, 19-year-old Oscar Acosta was lured to a wooded area near an elementary school in Brentwood. After gang members beat him with tree limbs, knocking him unconscious, they tied his hands and feet and moved him to a more secluded area.
Gang members slashed Acosta to death with a machete and buried him in a shallow grave.
In another case, a gang member is accused of approaching 24-year-old Carlos Ventura-Zelaya, who MS-13 members believed was part of a rival group called the 18th Street Gang. The gang member allegedly fired nine rounds from a 9 mm handgun, killing Ventura-Zelaya.
"The defendants committed multiple murders and other violent and wanton crimes on Long Island to further MS-13’s vicious code," acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Seth DuCharme said in a statement.
"Putting these men in a federal prison for the rest of their lives, or facing possible death sentences, may not mean much to them as members of MS-13 because it fits their macho bravado,” added FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney. "But it means a tremendous amount of relief to the communities on Long Island they've terrorized by using machetes to murder teenagers."
MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, was started in Los Angeles in the 1980s by refugees from El Salvador before spreading to more than a half-dozen countries.
The gang is notorious for attracting young men and keeping them in line through threats; in some cases, gang members turn on one of their own for suspected or confirmed betrayal. Many of the members in the United States are illegal immigrants.
Defendants in the newest case were identified as Carlos Alfaro, 23, David Sosa-Guevara, 28, and Victor Lopez-Morales, 32, of Roosevelt, New York; Ever Morales-Lopez, 26, and Kevin Torres, 25, of Freeport, New York; Jose Moises Blanco, 30, of Salisbury, North Carolina; Oseas Gonzalez, 28, of Charlotte, North Carolina; and Jose Jonathan Guevara-Castro, 25.
All defendants are in custody except for Guevara-Castro.
Charges include racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
President Donald Trump began a campaign to try to destroy MS-13 earlier in his tenure.
The administration is seeking the death penalty for one member, Alexi Saenz, who was indicted for allegedly committing seven murders, including the 2016 slayings of two teenage best friends, Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens.