The “highest ranking MS-13” member on the East Coast was arraigned Thursday on felony drug trafficking and conspiracy charges, the Nassau County, New York, District Attorney’s Office said.
The alleged kingpin, Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, 35, of Laurel, Maryland, “was responsible for carrying out acts of violence, including murder,” according to an indictment. Corea Diaz also helped broker heroin deals with the Mexican Mafia and was responsible for trafficking narcotics to customers to profit MS-13, the indictment said.
The accused leader is the regional director of the MS-13 Sailors clique for the East Coast, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office said.
“By arresting the head of the Northeast faction of MS-13, we have crippled MS-13’s operations in both New York and El Salvador,” said James Hunt, special agent in charge of the New York Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Corea Diaz, who is known as “Reaper,” was arraigned on three counts of operating as a major trafficker and five counts of conspiracy in the second degree before Acting Supreme Court Justice Patricia Harrington in a Mineola, New York, courtroom.
Harrington held Corea Diaz without bail, according to the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. Corea Diaz is in the Nassau County Jail
His attorney, Scott Gross of Garden City, New York, declined to comment Thursday.
“We now have the highest-ranking MS-13 member on the East Coast in custody,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a news release.
MS-13, also known as La Mara Salvatrucha, is one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.
Salvadoran immigrants fleeing the country’s civil war started MS-13 decades ago in Los Angeles. Its members are also immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and other Central and South American countries, according to an FBI Threat Assessment of the gang.
Corea Diaz reported to gang leaders in El Salvador, who received the gang’s profits and directed cliques in El Salvador and the United States, the indictment said.
On September 26 and September 29, 2017, Corea Diaz is accused of directing accused gang members to commit killings in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Prince George’s County, Maryland, authorities said. Authorities thwarted both killings.
Corea was arrested in October 2017. In January, he was indicted with 16 other alleged gang members on associate conspiracy to commit murder and drug trafficking charges, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office said.
Corea Diaz, who was in custody in Maryland, was extradited to Nassau County on Wednesday.
He faces 25 years to life if convicted of the top charge.
Over the years, MS-13 members have been convicted of a number of crimes nationwide, ranging from racketeering to murder. The Trump administration has spotlighted MS-13 as public enemy No. 1 as part of its heightened rhetoric against illegal immigration.