MS-13 gang member pleads guilty in killing of 4 young men on Long Island in 2017

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — An MS-13 gang member has admitted to participating in the brutal killing of four young men on Long Island in 2017.

Edwin Rodriguez, 24, pleaded guilty Wednesday to racketeering charges in connection with the April 11, 2017, deaths of Justin Llivicura, Michael Lopez, Jorge Tigre, and Jefferson Villalobos in Central Islip.

The then 17-year-old, who authorities said went by the nickname “Manicomio,” fled the country after the killings but was arrested in El Salvador in 2019 and extradited to the U.S. in 2022.

Rodriguez’s lawyer Glenn Obedin said in an emailed statement after the proceedings in federal court in Central Islip that his client was “relieved” to have reached a plea deal and was “ready now to move on to the next phase of the proceeding and the next phase of his life.” Rodriguez faces up to life in prison for the crimes.

Prosecutors said Rodriguez was a member of the Normandie Locos Salvatruchas clique of MS-13 that killed rival gang members that were perceived to have disrespected MS-13 in their social media postings.

Rodriguez and other gang members lured the five young men to a wooded park in Central Islip under the guise of smoking marijuana, prosecutors said. Instead, nearly a dozen MS-13 members and associates armed with machetes, knives, an axe, and wooden clubs attacked them in the cover of night.

Prosecutors said one of the intended victims escaped, but the four others were hacked, stabbed and bludgeoned to death and their bodies were discovered the following evening.

More than a dozen MS-13 members and associates have been charged in connection with the killings, which were part of a string of grisly gang-related deaths that shocked residents and underscored the deepening problem of gang violence in the suburbs just east of New York City.

MS-13 got its start as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles, but grew into a transnational gang based in El Salvador. It has members in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico and thousands of members across the United States with numerous branches, or “cliques,” according to federal authorities.

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