Why MS-13 Gang Member Lured Long Island Teens To Their Deaths: Prosecutors

The four victims killed in an infamous MS-13 gang ambush were “just high school students” who “tried to look tough” by flashing gang signs, the FBI said during Monday’s trial of a female Long Island suspect named ” Little Devil”.

Defendant Leniz “Diablita” Escobar, 22, allegedly tipped off the notoriously vicious gang about the victims’ perceived “deep sign of disrespect” — and lured the young men to their deaths, all in an effort to please to get to the killers, Assistant US Attorney Megan Farrell said during opening statements in Central Islip.

“When they were killed, [the victims] wailed in pain and filled the park with their terrified cries,” the prosecutor said.

The lone survivor of the 2017 massacre — identified only as “Alex” by prosecutors — took the stand Monday.

“Alex wasn’t in the gang,” Farrell said. “He wasn’t in MS-13, but he did post pictures of him and his friends holding up the signs and posing as members of MS-13.

Leniz Escobar allegedly lured four Long Island high school students to their deaths to gain favor with the MS-13 gang, prosecutors said at her trial.
United States Attorney

“They were just high school students,” she said. “They were trying to look tough and get attention. The members of MS-13 saw these photos on social media and saw these photos as a deep sign of disrespect, enough to warrant death.

“The crew of the MS-13 came out of the darkness and shouted orders that they should all get to the ground,” she said. “The defendant pretended to be one of the victims and went downstairs. The real victims ran, but Alex was the only one quick enough to escape. The other four were chopped to death.”

Escobar is charged with murder, extortion and conspiracy in the April 11, 2017 attack in a Central Islip park, where the mutilated bodies of the victims were later found.

The victims of the MS-13 attack (from left) Justin Llivicura, Jefferson Villalobos, Michael Lopez Banega and Jorge Tigre.
Victims of the MS-13 attack (from left) Justin Llivicura, Jefferson Villalobos, Michael Lopez Banega and Jorge Tigre.

Police say Michael Lopez, 20, Justin Llivicura, 16, Jorge Tigre, 18, and Jefferson Villalobos, 18, were killed in the massacre.

In court, Escobar wore tight black pants, a black shirt and a white-and-black jacket with a herringbone pattern.

“Great day,” she heard her lawyers say at one point.

Police at the scene of the murders in Central Islip, New York on April 13, 2017.
Police at the murder scene in Central Islip, New York, on April 13, 2017.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Victim Justin Llivicura's funeral in East Patchogue on April 19, 2017.
Victim Justin Llivicura’s funeral in East Patchogue on April 19, 2017.
AP Photo/Frank Eltman, File

Farrell said the next day, Escobar “bragged about her significant role in the murders” and told her friend that a victim had escaped.

“The day after the murders, she told her boyfriend that four trains had left but one had escaped,” Farrell said.

Escobar told her boyfriend “she did it to be happy so she could be happy,” the prosecutor said.

Farrell said Escobar lied to police and attempted to destroy evidence by throwing her cell phone from a moving car as police followed her.

Family and friends of Escobar during the trial at the Federal Court in Central Islip.
Family and friends of Escobar during the federal court trial in Central Islip on March 21, 2022.
Dennis A. Clark

Alex, who showed up at the local police station with distraught relatives of the victims to report them missing, later led authorities to the bloody scene.

†[The victims] were towed,” Nassau County Detective Donal Britton testified Monday. “Their shirts were pulled around their necks. They lay on top of each other. There was a lot of blood. Yes, they were dead.”

Relatives of the victims moaned in court when a photo of the murder scene was shown.

Prosecutors say the victims were not part of a gang and were alone
According to prosecutors, the victims were not part of a gang and were just trying to look tough.
Dennis A. Clark
Only one victim survived the attack on Long Island.
Only one victim survived the attack on Long Island.
Dennis A. Clark

Attorney Keith White said in his opening statements that his client was unaware that the victims would be attacked.

“Leniz didn’t know much about the attackers or whether these men were going to be killed,” White said.

He said Escobar’s companion, who allegedly helped lead the men to their deaths, as well as two of the accused attackers had made agreements with prosecutors to testify in exchange for lenient sentences.

Escobar’s trial is expected to last three to four weeks.

Leave a Comment