Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Ronald Catalan, a former leader of the Brentwood Locos Salvatruchas (BLS) clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, a transnational criminal organization, and Jerlin Villalta, a member of the Freeport Locos Salvatruchas (FLS) clique of the MS-13, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges relating to their participation in crimes of gang-related violence on Long Island. Catalan pleaded guilty to three attempted murders and a conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana as predicate racketeering acts, as well as illegally using firearms in connection with crimes of violence. Villalta pleaded guilty to the June 3, 2016 murder of Jose Pena and conspiracy to distribute marijuana as predicate racketeering acts. The guilty pleas were entered in separate proceedings before United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco. When sentenced, each defendant faces up to life imprisonment, and Villalta faces deportation.
Richard P. Donoghue, 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 guilty pleas.
“The defendants have admitted carrying out numerous MS-13 attacks on Long Island, including murder and attempted murders, as part of the gang’s campaign of wanton violence,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “Working with our partners on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Long Island Gang Task Force, we will not rest until MS-13 and the threat this transnational criminal enterprise presents to our communities is eliminated.” Mr. Donoghue thanked the Task Force for their invaluable assistance during the investigation.
According to the superseding indictment and statements made in court, on June 23, 2009, Catalan and two other MS-13 members, all of whom were new members of the BLS clique, armed themselves with handguns and drove through Brentwood, hunting for rival gang members to attack and kill in order to increase their standing in the gang. They observed a group of males on Barleau Street, whom they believed to be members of the rival Bloods street gang. The MS-13 members exited the car, approached the group and started firing. John Doe #1 was struck in the armpit and back as he tried to run; he underwent surgery and ultimately survived.
Catalan also admitted to participating in the October 21, 2015 attempted murders of two men on Bancroft Road in North Bay Shore. Catalan, who was the leader of the BLS clique from 2015 until his arrest in July 2017, and other MS-13 members retaliated against suspected members of the rival Latin Kings gang for the assault of an MS-13 member earlier that day. Armed with two .38 caliber revolvers, the MS-13 gang members drove around Brentwood and Bay Shore and observed a group of people they believed to be Latin Kings. Catalan directed two newer MS-13 members to carry out the shooting and gave them the .38 caliber revolvers. The MS-13 members approached the group and fired multiple shots before fleeing the scene. Two victims were struck by gunfire, but survived their wounds.
Villalta admitted that he and several co-conspirators murdered Jose Pena, a member of the MS-13, because he was suspected of cooperating with law enforcement and being homosexual. After consulting with MS-13 leadership in El Salvador, Villalta and the other MS-13 members obtained weapons and a vehicle to be used in the murder. On June 3, 2016, they lured Pena into the car and drove to a secluded wooded area in Brentwood, where they stabbed and slashed him with knives until he was dead. Pena’s body was not discovered for four months.
Both Catalan and Villalta pleaded guilty to participating in drug conspiracies with the BLS and FLS cliques, respectively.
Today’s guilty pleas are 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 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 45 murders in the Eastern District of New York, 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, Suffolk County Police Department, Nassau County Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, Rockville Centre Police Department and the New York State Police.
The government’s cases are being prosecuted by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Paul G. Scotti, Raymond A. Tierney and Michael T. Keilty are in charge of the prosecution.
RONALD CATALAN (also known as “Stranger” and “Extrano”)
Brentwood, New York
JERLIN VILLALTA (also known as “Sonic”)
Brentwood, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-403 (S-6) (JFB)