A member of the MS-13 street gang has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the drive-by killing of a rival gang leader and the attempted murder of another rival, officials said.
Yonis Acosta-Yanes, 27, of Glen Cove, was sentenced to the maximum term for racketeering conspiracy on Monday in federal court in Central Islip by U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco, officials said.
Acosta-Yanes' attorney, Lloyd Nadel of Mineola, had asked for a sentence of 17 years, requesting leniency for his client. Acosta-Yanes, who was born in El Salvador, was raised and attended school in an impoverished area of Glen Cove that was "rife with interracial violence and gang problems," Nadel said Tuesday. On one occasion his client's jaw was fractured and on another his hand was broken and his scalp lacerated, Nadel said. Acosta-Yanes did not comment before the sentencing, Nadel said, who added that his client is considering an appeal.
When he pleaded guilty to the racketeering charge in March, Acosta-Yanes admitted he was the driver in a car that was involved in the killing of Santos Castillo-Martinez in Hempstead in May of 2008, according to court records. Castillo-Martinez was a leader of the Hempstead clique of the rival 18th Street gang, the records said.
Castillo-Martinez was sitting in his car on Washington Avenue when Acosta-Yanes drove alongside in a minivan and another MS-13 member sitting in the passenger seat fired a fatal shot to the head of the 18th Street leader, the court records said.
The investigation into who did the actual shooting is continuing, officials said.
The 18th Street leader, Castillo-Martinez, had been talking to an unidentified leader of a third street gang, Salvadorans With Pride, or SWP, according to the court records, which were filed by Eastern District prosecutor John Durham.
Shots also were also fired at the SWP leader, but he fled the scene unharmed, Durham said.
Seven months later, in October 2008, Acosta-Yanes and other MS-13 members were en route to kill another unnamed rival gang member when their car was stopped by officers from the Nassau County and Garden City police, Durham said in the court papers.
In the car, police found a loaded .380-handgun, which led to Acosta-Yanes' second guilty plea for racketeering, according to the records.
Since 2010 prosecutors, working with the FBI's Long Island Gang Task Force, have convicted more than 30 members of the MS-13 on charges relating to their participation in one or more murders, Eastern District spokesman Robert Nardoza said Tuesday.