MS-13 gang member gets life in prison for 2017 murder

LONG ISLAND, NY – Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, Jose Suarez, an associate of the Sailors Locos Salvatruchas Westside (Sailors) clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, was sentenced to life in prison by United States Circuit Judge Joseph F. Bianco.  In May 2019, Suarez was convicted following a three-week jury trial of murder, racketeering and assault charges in connection with the January 30, 2017 murder of Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla and the shooting of a female employee at a deli in Central Islip, and the December 18, 2016 assault of a man outside a restaurant in Brentwood.

Seth D. DuCharme, Acting 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), Geraldine Hart, Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), and Patrick J. Ryder, Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department (NCPD), announced the sentence.

“Suarez will deservedly spend the rest of his life in a federal prison for the brutal murder and mayhem he committed in the name of the MS-13 gang,” stated Acting United States Attorney DuCharme.  “The investigation and trial of this case is the result of the unyielding commitment of the Office and our partners on the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force to eradicate the MS-13 in this district.”

“Mr. Suarez’ life sentence in federal prison is simply another brick in the wall we’ve built around MS-13 to stop this violent gang from terrorizing people on Long Island. Agents and detectives assigned to the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, whose work continues to this day, have put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to dismantle this gang.  The results of their labor, as well as the community’s commitment to working with us to prevent a resurgence in gang activity, is commendable,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.

“The relentless efforts of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force and the Eastern District of New York have never wavered in holding MS-13 gang members accountable for their violent, senseless crimes,” stated SCPD Commissioner Hart.  “Thanks to their dedication, Suarez will spend the rest of his life behind bars for the murder and assaults that he committed. This sentence sends a message that our department along with our local and federal law enforcement partners remain determined to dismantle this transnational gang.”

“The continued efforts of the Long Island Gang Task Force continues to show positive results in their commitment to eradicate criminal gang activity.  The conviction of MS-13 Gang Member Jose Suarez on charges of Murder, Racketeering and Assault charges is a clear example that this multi-agency approach is working.  I would like to acknowledge the continued efforts of the dedicated investigators and their agencies for keeping residents and our communities safe,” stated NCPD Commissioner Ryder.

On January 30, 2017, a member of the Sailors clique saw Alvarado-Bonilla inside El Campesino Deli in Central Islip.  Believing that Alvarado-Bonilla was a rival gang member, several members of the Sailors clique plotted to kill him.  Suarez drove MS-13 member Mario Aguilar-Lopez and an MS-13 associate to a street near the deli.  Aguilar-Lopez entered the deli, approached the victim from behind and shot him multiple times, killing him.  One of the bullets traveled through Alvarado-Bonilla’s head and struck a female employee of the deli standing directly in front of him.  Aguilar-Lopez ran out of the deli and to the car where Suarez was waiting, and the two fled the scene.  The store employee survived a gunshot wound to the chest.  In November 2018, Aguilar-Lopez pleaded guilty to causing Alvarado’s death and shooting the store clerk.  He is awaiting sentencing.

On December 18, 2016, Suarez and several MS-13 members and associates assaulted two men outside the Super Taco facility in Brentwood, seriously injuring one of the men.  The victims were attacked because one of them had disrespected the MS-13.

Today’s sentencing 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.  The MS-13’s leadership is based in El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala 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 60 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, NCPD, SCPD, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, the Suffolk County Probation Office, the New York State Police, the Hempstead Police Department, the Rockville Centre Police Department, and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Michael T. Keilty, Paul G. Scotti and Justina L. Geraci are in charge of the prosecution.