CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. – An MS-13 street gang member was sentenced to 55 years in prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to racketeering charges for his role in the brutal massacre of four young men on Long Island.
“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,” Richard Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
Josue Portillo was 15 years old at the time of the April 2017 slayings. He admitted to planning the killings with other MS-13 defendants because he said they believed the four were rival gang members. The victims, Justin Llivicura, 16, Michael Lopez, 20, Jorge Tigre, 18, and Jefferson Villalobos, 18, were lured to a park and attacked with machetes, knives and clubs.
The violence, including the 2016 slayings of two teenage girls in Brentwood, led to congressional hearings and visits to Long Island from both President Donald Trump and then U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. At one appearance, Trump seemed to reference the case directly, saying MS-13 members “have transformed peaceful parks in beautiful neighborhoods into blood-stained killing fields.”
MS-13, or La Mara Salvatrucha, recruits young teenagers from El Salvador and Honduras, though many gang members were born in the U.S. The gang has been blamed for dozens of killings since January 2016 across a wide swath of Long Island.
Before he was sentenced in federal court, Portillo, 18, addressed the judge in Spanish and apologized for the slayings.
“I know what I have done was so very wrong,” Portillo said, according to an English translation provided by Newsday. “I apologize for my heinous crime and will always pray for the families of these victims, none of whom deserved to die.”
Portillo entered the country illegally from El Salvador and faces deportation upon completion of his sentence, which includes an order to pay $24,000 in funeral expenses to the victims’ families.