MS-13 gang member gets 55 years for connection in 4 murders at Long Island park

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Victims of the MS-13 quadruple homicide by Josue Portillo: (from left) Justin Llivicura, Jefferson Villalobos, Michael Lopez Banega and Jorge Tigre. / Photo via NY Post

Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, Josue Portillo, a member of the Leeward Locos Salvatruchas clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, was sentenced by United States Circuit Judge Joseph F. Bianco to 55 years’ imprisonment, following his guilty plea to racketeering charges for his participation in the April 11, 2017 murders of Justin Llivicura, Michael Lopez, Jorge Tigre and Jefferson Villalobos. Upon completion of his sentence, Portillo, an illegal alien from El Salvador, faces deportation from the United States.

“Portillo and his co-defendants slaughtered four young men on behalf of the MS-13,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “Nothing can bring back the young lives lost, and no sentence imposed by a court can truly bring justice in this situation, but the Eastern District and our partners in the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force will continue to work relentlessly to eliminate the scourge of MS-13 violence.”

“MS-13 and the actions of the gang members in this case defy comprehension. These are teenagers who think human life is some sort of game, viciously murdering other teenagers because they were disrespected,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “The FBI Long Island Gang Task Force is working closely with our law enforcement partners and the community to prevent more attacks and murders from happening. We encourage anyone who may know something about MS-13 members to call us so we can stop the violence before it takes place.”

“The murders of four people during a single incident shows how vicious MS-13 members are,” said SCPD Commissioner Hart. “The department will continue its partnership with the Long Island Gang Task Force to ensure gang violence ceases as we remain steadfast in our commitment to dismantle this transnational gang.”

“The arrest and sentencing of defendant Josue Portillo is a clear example of numerous dedicated law enforcement agencies and their investigators working cohesively to bring the individuals responsible for these vicious and brutal murders to justice,” stated NCPD Commissioner Ryder. “All law enforcement must stand together with a zero tolerance approach to eliminate the threat of illegal gangs, their violence against communities and the people who reside in them.”

On the evening of April 11, 2017, two female associates of the MS-13 lured five young men, including the four victims, to a community park in Central Islip at the direction of Portillo and other MS-13 members. The men were believed to be members of a rival gang who had offended the MS-13. Portillo and numerous other MS-13 members and associates met in the park where they distributed weapons and discussed the plan to kill the victims. When the female MS-13 associates led the men to a wooded area, Portillo and the other MS-13 members and associates killed Llivicura, Lopez, Tigre and Villalobos, using machetes, knives, wooden clubs and an ax. The fifth intended victim escaped. The victims’ bodies were discovered the following evening.

Portillo was under 16 years of age at the time of the murders, and was initially charged by a juvenile information. Thereafter, the government filed a motion to transfer him to adult status for prosecution. Following an evidentiary hearing, the Court granted the government’s transfer motion, and ordered that Portillo be prosecuted as an adult. In August 2018, Portillo waived indictment and pleaded guilty.

Today’s sentence is the latest result of 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 this district. 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 this 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, NCPD, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, Rockville Centre Police Department, New York State Police, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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