NEW YORK, June 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; William G. McMahon, Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Denis Dillon, Nassau County District Attorney; and James H. Lawrence, Nassau County Police Department Commissioner; today announced the unsealing of an indictment charging five leaders and members of the Freeport chapter of the Netas, a violent street gang based on Long Island.
The charges, including a homicide, shootings, beatings and a stabbing, are the product of an investigation led by ATF's Long Island Firearms Task Force, comprised of members of ATF and the Nassau County and Suffolk County Police Departments. Most of the charges against the defendants grow out of a gang war with members of the MS-13 gang in Nassau County during the past several years.(1)
Five defendants were to be arraigned today before U.S. District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein in Central Islip, N.Y. The two remaining defendants, also members of the Netas Freeport chapter, were previously arraigned on related charges.
(1) The charges announced today are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
According to the indictment, the Netas were organized in approximately 1970 in a prison in Puerto Rico and thereafter spread to include inmates in New Jersey and New York. As Netas inmates were released from prison, they formed chapters and engaged in various criminal activities, including narcotics distribution and violent assaults and murders of rival gang members.
Each Netas chapter has a hierarchical leadership structure, including a president, vice president, treasurer, disciplinarian and a coordinator who organized monthly meetings. Prospective Netas members were required to participate in a probationary period before they were formally "blessed in" to membership at a "universal" meeting of the chapters on March 30th of each year. Members often wore red, white and black to indicate their gang affiliation, used hand signals to identify themselves to other members as well as to rival gangs, and frequently bore tattoos reading, among other things, "N.D.C.," for Neta de Corazon, meaning "Neta from the heart."
Each member was required to follow to a set of rules, which obligated the member to obtain a "green light" before committing an act of violence, and to report suspected government informants to their leaders. Gang members who violated any of the rules were disciplined at ritualized beatings, typically at a monthly meeting by the chapter's disciplinarian.
The charges announced today follow the murder of Damien Corrente, on January 14, 1999, in Freeport, N.Y. Corrente was mistakenly believed to be a Netas member by his MS-13 assailants. The Corrente murder escalated the already violent conflict between the Netas and the MS-13 gang.
The Giovanni Aguilar Homicide
Amadeo Rodriguez and Christopher Moore are charged with the execution- style shooting murder of 20-year-old Giovanni Aguilar at a residence on Jay Street in Freeport, N.Y., in the early morning hours of January 1, 2001. The indictment charges that Rodriguez and Moore murdered Aguilar, a Freeport landscaper, because they mistakenly believed that he was a member of the rival gang MS-13. As Rodriguez shot Aguilar in the face and chest, Moore fired six times into a residence containing New Year's Eve party celebrants -- including members of MS-13 -- narrowly missing a 10 year-old child. Jose Escobar and John Piedrahita are charged with accessory after-the-fact for disposing of the murder weapon.
Assault at the Freeport Industrial Area
On July 18, 2000, Amadeo Rodriguez, Jose Escobar, Nelson Calderon and John Roman beat and stabbed two men at the Industrial Area in Freeport, N.Y. The attack was retribution for an earlier altercation between the Netas and the victims. The defendants, with faces masked, attacked the victims with sticks and broken bottles. One victim was stabbed in the leg while the second suffered lacerations of the neck.
Sunrise Highway Shooting
On April 23, 2003, at approximately 8:15 p.m., Amadeo Rodriguez and German Chajchic were driving on Sunrise Highway in Bellmore, N.Y., and Rodriguez opened fire at a car filled with members of the MS-13 gang, narrowly missing them, as well as several innocent bystanders.
If convicted, the defendants face the following maximum sentences: -- Amadeo Rodriguez -- life imprisonment, or death, based upon his participation in the Aguilar homicide, the assault at the Freeport Industrial Area and the Sunrise Highway shooting; -- Christopher Moore -- life imprisonment, or death, based upon his participation in the Aguilar homicide; -- German Chajchic -- life imprisonment, based upon his participation in the Sunrise Highway shooting; -- Jose Escobar -- 35 years imprisonment, based upon his disposing of the Aguilar murder weapon and his participation in the assault at the Freeport Industrial Area; -- Nelson Calderon and John Roman -- 20 years imprisonment, based upon their participation in the assault at the Freeport Industrial Area; and -- John Piedrahita -- 15 years imprisonment, based upon his disposing of the Aguilar murder weapon.
ATF Special Agent-in-Charge McMahon stated, "ATF's primary concern is the safety of our citizens. By removing these violent gang members from the streets, we can reclaim our neighborhoods where our children and families can enjoy their freedom without fear of injury. ATF, along with our partners, will strive to make our streets safer by targeting these violent gangs and put their vicious members in prison."
"The charges announced today are part of our continuing effort to eradicate indiscriminate gang violence on Long Island," stated U.S. Attorney Mauskopf. "From the gratuitous murder of an innocent man, to the near slaying of a 10-year-old child, the violence perpetrated by the Netas demonstrates the very real risks that so-called gang wars pose to law abiding citizens. As today's cooperative effort by law enforcement demonstrates, we have and will continue to devote our energy and resources to this effort to ensure that those who commit violent crimes face the maximum punishment allowed by the law."
Mauskopf emphasized that the investigation is continuing and expressed her appreciation for the work of the ATF Long Island Firearms Task Force.
Dillon, the Nassau County District Attorney, stated, "This investigation is yet another example of interagency cooperation in our aggressive efforts to combat gang violence on Long Island and make our communities safer."
Lawrence, Nassau County Police Commissioner, stated, "The indictments unsealed today are another example of how the entire law enforcement community can collectively pool their resources and bring these gang members to justice. It is our sworn duty to protect our neighborhoods from the violence these members perpetrate upon our community."
The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark J. Lesko.
Contacts: Robert Nardoza United States Attorney's Office (718) 254-6323 Joseph Green Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (718) 650-4000 Richard Hinshaw Nassau County D.A.'s Office (516) 571-2994 Lt. Kevin Smith Nassau County Police Department (516) 573-7135Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives
Web site: http://www.atf.gov/