MS-13 member sentenced to 25 years in Long Island murder

July 16, 2021 GMT

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — A member of the notorious MS-13 street gang has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for a 2016 fatal stabbing on Long Island.

Jerlin Villalta told a judge Thursday he is haunted by the role he played in killing fellow gang member Jose Pena-Hernandez in the woods near an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Brentwood, Newsday reports.

“Years have gone by but I still have nightmares about that day,” Villalta said through a Spanish interpreter. “I will regret it for the rest of my life.”

Villalta, 24, pleaded guilty in 2018 to racketeering as well as conspiracy to distribute marijuana on Long Island and elsewhere.

Pena-Hernandez’s skeletal remains were discovered four months after his death, fueling outrage on Long Island about a series of killings carried out by MS-13. Prosecutors say a separate attack in September 2016 took the lives of Brentwood High School students Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15.


Also known as Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13 is considered one of the top transnational organized crime threats in the United States. The gang recruits young teenagers from El Salvador and Honduras, though many members were born in the U.S.

Long Island has a large population of unaccompanied minors from Central America, including many who were fleeing the violence in their home nations.