Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 11, 2016
MS-13 Gang Member Pleads Guilty To Double-Murder
Velasquez and Co-Conspirator Executed Two Brothers in Brentwood on December 18, 2011
Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York, Arnolvin Umanzor Velasquez (aka “Momia” and “Lito”), a member of the Brentwood Locos Salvatruchas (BLS) clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13 street gang, pleaded guilty to his involvement in the December 18, 2011 execution-style murders of two brothers, Ricardo and Enston Ceron. After committing the murders, Velasquez fled to El Salvador, and he later relocated to Georgia. On May 19, 2015, he was found and arrested in Flowery Branch, Georgia, by a Federal Bureau of Investigation SWAT team and later transferred to the Eastern District of New York in custody.
The plea was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, FBI, New York Field Office, and Timothy Sini, Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department.
“The Ceron brothers’ murders are another example of the senseless violence unleashed by the MS-13 on our communities, including the gang’s own members who violate the gang’s rules. One brother was executed because he was trying to distance himself from the MS-13, and the other was killed, merely because of his relationship with the other victim,” stated United States Attorney Capers. “As a result of the tenacious investigation by this Office and our partners with the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, Velasquez and other MS-13 gang members who commit callous acts of violence will be held accountable and face justice.”
“The violence that often erupts between mutual and rival gang members not only affects the criminals involved in this insidious behavior, but innocent people living in the neighborhoods in which they operate. The murders of Ricardo and Enston Ceron signify the unfortunate reality that gangs are responsible for a significant percentage of violent crime in many jurisdictions. We’re dedicated to disrupting and dismantling gangs that pose a threat to the safety and stability of our communities and undermine the values we strive to uphold,” stated Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.
“Gang violence in Suffolk County threatens the very fabric of our communities, and we must do everything we can to disrupt gangs such as MS-13. Today’s conviction sends a clear message that we will not tolerate gangs and the senseless violence they cause. That is why the Suffolk County Police Department is committed to working with all of our law enforcement partners—particularly the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI—to make Suffolk County an even safer County than it is already,” stated Commissioner Sini.
As set forth in prior court filings, a detention letter, and the defendant’s statements during his guilty plea, the BLS clique killed Enston Ceron because he was not attending meetings or “putting in work” for the gang, and the clique member were concerned that he might cooperate with law enforcement authorities if he were arrested. The BLS clique also murdered his brother, Ricardo Ceron, who belonged to the Western clique of the MS-13, because they were concerned he would retaliate if he learned that the BLS killed his brother. On December 18, 2011, Velasquez and Sergio Cerna (“Taz”), who had agreed to carry out the murders and were armed with .22 caliber and 9mm semi-automatic handguns, asked Enston and Ricardo Ceron for a ride home from a party. When the car stopped in the vicinity of Lincoln Avenue and Stockton Streets in Brentwood, Velasquez and Cerna executed the Ceron brothers, shooting them in the head and torso at close range. Velasquez and Cerna exited the car and when another vehicle approached the murder scene and stopped, Cerna fired multiple shots at the driver, striking him once in the chest. The driver survived the shooting.
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 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 alone, this Office has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 30 murders, 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, 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.
Velasquez faces a maximum sentence of life in prison when sentenced by United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco on June 23, 2016. The charges in the superseding indictment against the other defendants remain pending and are merely allegations. Those defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Raymond A. Tierney, and Paul G. Scotti are in charge of the prosecution.
ARNOLVIN UMANZOR VELASQUEZ (“Momia” and “Lito”)
Brentwood, New York and Flowery Branch, Georgia
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-CR-087 (S-2)(JFB)