ISLIP, NY – Eduardo Portillo, also known as “Firuli” and “Tito” (Portillo), a member of the violent transnational criminal organization La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the “MS-13,” and a fugitive from justice, was extradited from El Salvador to the United States early this morning. Portillo, who was arrested in Morazán, El Salvador on February 23, 2019, has been detained pending his extradition to the United States, which was formally authorized by the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador on October 6, 2020. Portillo was originally charged with the murder of 15-year-old Javier Castillo in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Central Islip, New York, on May 30, 2018. An INTERPOL Red Notice for his arrest was published on December 13, 2018 in connection with these charges. Portillo was arraigned this afternoon before United States Circuit Judge Joseph F. Bianco and ordered detained pending trial.
Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the arrest and extradition.
“Today’s extradition of defendant Portillo demonstrates the resolve of law enforcement to bring to justice all gang members who commits violent crimes in our district no matter where in the world they may run and try to hide,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme. “I hope the extradition of the defendant and his prosecution in a U.S. court will bring some measure of closure to the family of the young victim.”
Acting United States Attorney DuCharme expressed his grateful appreciation to the investigators and analysts of El Salvador’s Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) Centro Antipandillas Transnacional (CAT) unit, who are assigned to the Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Unit, for their outstanding collaboration in locating and apprehending this fugitive, and to the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic of El Salvador for its crucial assistance during the extradition process. Additionally, Mr. DuCharme expressed sincere thanks to all the members of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), as well as to the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs (OIA), for their partnership in this case.
“Bringing Mr. Portillo back to the U.S. to face justice for the heinous murder of a 15-year-old is a big step toward healing a family and community terrorized by MS-13. We have made incredible inroads with members of that community, building relationships and trust which are vital to keeping the violence at bay. But we’re not done, and we have more work to do. We hope people see this action as a sign that the FBI Long Island Gang Task Force and our partners are not slowing down in our resolve to dismantle MS-13,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.
Portillo is presently charged in an 89-count seventh superseding indictment, along with 22 other MS-13 members, with racketeering offenses, murder and narcotics trafficking. In particular, Portillo has been charged with participating in the murder of Castillo, who 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 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 along the water in Cow Meadow Park, Freeport, where they attacked and killed him, taking turns hacking him 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.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Portillo faces up to life in prison.
This indictment 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, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, 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 largest and most violent street gang 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, comprising agents and officers of the FBI, the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD), the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, the Suffolk County Probation 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.