The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office; and Thomas V. Dale, Commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department.
“Heriberto Martinez placed less value on human lives than he did on enforcing the barbaric rules of the MS-13 and, as a leader of the MS-13, making sure other gang members were doing the same. In keeping with those twisted rules, during a six-week period in early 2010, Martinez authorized the execution of a young mother, whom he believed had disrespected the gang, ordered the execution of a security guard for doing his job, and both advocated for and carried out the execution of a fellow MS-13 member who refused to commit senseless, violent crimes,” stated U.S. Attorney Lynch. “The jury’s verdict earlier this year and today’s sentence demonstrate that the brutal and senseless violence committed by Martinez and his fellow MS-13 members will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted tenaciously.” Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the members of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force and the New York City Police Department for their assistance in this case.
FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos stated, “Martinez terrorized, victimized, and murdered members of our community in the name of MS-13. His violence and criminal activity knew no limits. Consistent with the recent sentences of other MS-13 gang members, today’s sentence of Martinez should send a clear message to all members of these violent enterprises: your actions will not be tolerated, no matter what group you hide behind. The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue efforts to rid the streets of these violent criminals and bring them to justice.”
At trial, the government proved that Martinez, along with his fellow MS-13 gang members, killed multiple victims between February and March of 2010:
- Martinez was convicted in connection with the execution-style murder of Vanessa Argueta, a 19-year-old woman, in Central Islip, New York, on February 5, 2010. Martinez also was convicted of being an accessory after-the-fact in the murder of Argueta and her 2-year-old son, Diego Torres, who was shot and killed during the same criminal incident. Martinez helped three of his co-conspirators evade arrest in New York and flee to El Salvador after the commission of the murders. The bodies of Argueta and Torres were found in a secluded wooded area in Central Islip. Argueta had been shot in the head and chest, and Torres had been shot twice in the head.
- Martinez also was convicted in connection with the execution-style murder of 23-year-old Nestor Moreno, a security guard at El Rancho Bar and Grill in Hempstead, New York, on March 6, 2010. In late February 2010, Heriberto Martinez and several other members of the MS-13 were involved in a dispute with El Rancho employees over an unpaid bar tab. The dispute escalated into a physical altercation during which Martinez was sprayed with pepper spray. Prior to leaving El Rancho, Martinez identified himself as an MS-13 member to the victim and told him, “It’s not going to end like this.” On March 6, 2010, Martinez, along with four co-conspirators, returned to El Rancho and carried out that threat, shooting Moreno in the head at point-blank range. The gun used to kill Moreno was the same semi-automatic handgun used to kill Argueta and her son one month earlier.
- Both Martinez and Ortega were convicted for the March 17, 2010, murder of Mario Alberto Canton Quijada in Far Rockaway, New York. Quijada, who was a fellow member of the MS-13, was killed because of his reluctance to “put in work,” or attack rival gang members on behalf of the MS-13. On March 17, 2010, Quijada was lured to the beach in Far Rockaway under the guise of attacking rival gang members. Once alone on the beach, the MS-13 gang members tried to shoot Quijada in the head with the same semi-automatic handgun used in the murders of Moreno, Argueta, and Argueta’s son. However, the gun jammed. Undeterred, Martinez, Ortega, and the other MS-13 members set upon Quijada with knifes and machetes and hacked him to death.
Martinez’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 street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. With numerous branches, or “cliques,” the MS-13 is the largest street gang on Long Island. Since 2002, more than 200 MS-13 members, including more than two dozen clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. More than 100 of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges. Since 2010 alone, this office has convicted more than 30 members of the MS-13 on charges relating to their participation in one or more murders. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, composed of agents and officers of the FBI, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, Rockville Centre Police Department, and Suffolk County Police Department.
The life sentence was imposed by United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Raymond A. Tierney, and Carrie N. Capwell.