On Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in federal court in Central Islip, 24-year-old Eduardo Portillo, also known as “Firuli” and “Tito” (Portillo), a member of the violent transnational criminal organization La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges relating to his participation in the murder of 15-year-old Javier Castillo, and to conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana. The guilty plea was entered before United States Circuit Judge Joseph F. Bianco.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Stuart Cameron, Acting Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), announced the guilty plea.
“With today’s guilty plea, the defendant, an MS-13 gang member, admits to an utterly depraved and heinous crime, of taking turns with a machete to hack a teenage boy to death, simply because he believed the boy belonged to a rival gang,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis. “This office and its law enforcement partners in New York and El Salvador are committed to stopping the violence of MS-13 gang members and bringing an end to their reign of brutality and murder in this district. It is my hope that today’s plea brings some measure of closure to the family members of the young victim.” Ms. Kasulis expressed her grateful appreciation to the investigators and analysts from the FBI’s Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Unit in El Salvador, the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force for their outstanding collaboration in locating and apprehending this fugitive, as well as the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs for their partnership in this case.
“Eduardo Portillo violently participated in taking the life of another teen as well as fed the drug epidemic plaguing our community,” stated SCPD Acting Commissioner Cameron. “This guilty plea is another step in the fight against gang violence and drug addiction in our county. Members of the department will continue to work with the Eastern District of New York and our law enforcement partners to put violent criminals behind bars and bring justice to the victims and their families.”
As set forth in prior court filings and the defendant’s statements during his guilty plea, Portillo and his fellow MS-13 members targeted Castillo because he was believed to be a member of the 18th Street gang, one of MS-13’s principal rivals. On October 10, 2016, Portillo and other Brentwood-based members of the Sailors Locos Salvatruchas Westside (Sailors) clique of the MS-13 convinced Castillo, who lived in Central Islip, to go with them to Freeport – approximately 30 miles away – to smoke marijuana. They lured Castillo to an isolated marsh area in Cow Meadow Park in Freeport, where they attacked him, taking turns hacking the victim with a machete. Afterwards, the MS-13 members dug a hole and buried Castillo’s body, which was not recovered until one year later, in October 2017.
Portillo also pleaded guilty to participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy, admitting that between April 2016 and March 2017, he and other members of the Sailors clique conspired to distribute cocaine and marijuana in the Brentwood area to raise money for the MS-13 and fund its operations.
Portillo was arrested in Morazán, El Salvador, on February 23, 2019, and extradited to the United States on November 6, 2020.
Today’s conviction is 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, transnational criminal organization. The MS-13’s leadership is based in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, 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 most violent criminal organization 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 60 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, which is comprised of agents and officers of the FBI, SCPD, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation Office, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, the New York State Police, the Hempstead Police Department, the Rockville Centre Police Department, and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Paul G. Scotti, Justina L. Geraci, Megan E. Farrell, and John J. Durham are in charge of the prosecution.