High-ranking MS-13 member pleads guilty to racketeering charges in case involving 8 murders

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Wednesday, July 10, 2024
MS-13 gang member pleads guilty to 8 murders including 2016 killings of Brentwood teens
Janice Yu has details as high-ranking MS-13 member pleads guilty to 8 murders.

CENTRAL ISLIP, Long Island (WABC) -- A high-ranking member of the MS-13 gang pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges in a case involving eight murders.

Alexi Saenz, 29, appeared before a judge in federal court in Central Islip and pleaded guilty to racketeering and firearms charges.

Saenz pleaded guilty to charges in the brutal killings of two teenage girls, Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, back in September 2016 in Brentwood.

Prosecutors say Saenz and his brother Jairo hunted the best friends down and attacked them with machetes and beat them with baseball bats.

It has been a grueling journey for Mickens' mother, Elizabeth Alvarado, to get justice for her daughter.

"I just want it done, they need to pay for it and other families, we cannot move forward," Alvarado said. "I know that as she sees me, as she knows it and fighting for her and I will continue to fight until the day I die."

Saenz also pleaded guilty in connection to the January 28, 2016 murder of Michael Johnson, the April 29, 2016 murder of Oscar Acosta, the September 5, 2016 murder of Marcus Bohannon, the October 10, 2016 murder of Javier Castillo, the October 13, 2016 murder of Dewann Stacks, and the January 30, 2017 murder of Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla -- as well as his participation in three attempted murders, arson, narcotics trafficking, and firearms offenses.

"To say that Alexi Saenz's hands are drenched in blood does not begin to describe the multiple killings and extreme mayhem he personally directed and committed in the span of one year in Suffolk County," stated United States Attorney Breon Peace

Saenz's attorney read aloud a statement he wrote, and in it, Saenz admitted authorizing lower-ranking MS-13 members to kill suspected rival gang members -- among them was Michael Johnson.

However, Johnson's father George Johnson says his son was not involved in a rival gang.

"That was my son, he had bipolar disorder, he was handicapped, so I did everything humanly possible not to get up and walk out of the courtroom because that right there was a lie," Johnson said.

The deaths of the innocent victims made headlines around the country. Their murders and the later discovery of many other buried bodies on Long Island prompted federal law enforcement to help local police crack down on MS-13 on Long Island.

The U.S. Department of Justice at the time called it their war on MS-13.

Back in 2020, the feds said they would seek the death penalty against Saenz, however, in 2023, Eyewitness News is told Attorney General Merrick Garland instructed prosecutors to back off from that.

Police and federal agents arrested dozens of suspected members of MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, a transnational criminal organization believed to have been founded as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by people fleeing civil war in El Salvador.

Cuevas' mother, Evelyn Rodriguez, became an anti-gang activist after her daughter's death but was herself killed in 2018. Rodriguez was fatally struck by a car during a dispute over a memorial marking the second anniversary of her daughter's death. The driver, Annmarie Drago, pleaded guilty in 2024 to negligent homicide.

Prosecutors said Saenz, also known as "Blasty" and "Big Homie," was the leader of an MS-13 clique operating in Brentwood and Central Islip known as Sailors Locos Salvatruchas Westside. Charges are still pending against his brother, Jairo Saenz, who prosecutors say was second-in-command in the local gang.

The plea agreement lays out a sentence between 40 to 70 years and restitution for the victims and their families. The sentencing will be January 31.

There is something called a global provision included in the plea, meaning the plea deal is contingent on his brother pleading guilty as well. If he doesn't, the plea can be voided.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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