Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Eduardo Portillo, also known as “Firuli” and “Tito” (Portillo), an associate of the violent transnational criminal organization La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the “MS-13,” was sentenced by United States District Judge Gary R. Brown to 25 years in prison for his role in the murder of 15-year-old Javier Castillo in Cow Meadow Park in Freeport. The defendant, who was arrested in El Salvador and extradited to the United States to face these charges, pleaded guilty in September 2021 to racketeering, and admitted to his involvement in the Castillo murder and narcotics trafficking on behalf of the MS-13.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Rodney K. Harrison, Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), announced the sentence.
“With today’s sentence, Portillo learned there are very serious consequences for participating in the planning and execution of a murder so that he could gain membership in the MS-13 gang, a vicious criminal enterprise whose members have no regard for human life or the rule of law,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “That the victim in this case was a 15-year-old boy is all the more tragic, and it is my hope that dogged work of law enforcement in tracking down the defendant in El Salvador, his extradition to the Eastern District of New York, and the decades the defendant will spend in prison, brings some measure of closure to the family of the young victim.”
Mr. Peace expressed his appreciation to the investigators and analysts from the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force and Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Unit in El Salvador, the Nassau County Police Department, and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs for its assistance with Portillo’s extradition.
“Today’s sentencing sends another clear message that gang violence will not be tolerated and the extradition of this suspect proves law enforcement will go to great lengths to ensure justice is served,” stated SCPD Commissioner Harrison said. “I would like to thank all our law enforcement partners for bringing this case to a successful conclusion and hope this sentencing brings some sense of closure for the victim’s family.”
Portillo and other MS-13 members targeted Castillo for death because he was believed to be a member of the 18th Street gang, one of MS-13’s principal rivals. On October 10, 2016, Portillo, who was friendly with Castillo, and other Brentwood-based members of the Sailors Locos Salvatruchas Westside (Sailors) clique of the MS-13, convinced Castillo to go with them to Freeport – approximately 20 miles away – to smoke marijuana. There, they lured Castillo to an isolated marsh area in Cow Meadow Park, where Portillo and his co-conspirators attacked Castillo, taking turns hacking him to death with a machete. Afterwards, the MS-13 members dug a hole and buried Castillo’s body. The victim’s brother informed the SCPD that he was told by a person who had ties with the MS-13 to stop looking for Castillo, because he was already “gone and buried.” Castillo’s body was recovered one year later in October 2017.
Portillo, who was illegally in the United States at the time of the murder, was deported to El Salvador before he was indicted for Castillo’s murder. However, after he was indicted, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (USAO-EDNY) and FBI obtained an INTERPOL Red Notice for Portillo. On February 23, 2019, El Salvador’s Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) Centro Antipandillas Transnacional (CAT) Unit, who are assigned to the Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Unit, located Portillo and arrested him in Morazán, El Salvador on the Red Notice. The USAO-EDNY subsequently requested Portillo’s extradition and, on November 6, 2020, he was extradited to the United States.
Today’s sentencing is the latest accomplishment in a series of federal prosecutions by the USAO-EDNY targeting members and associates of the MS-13, a violent, transnational criminal organization. The MS-13’s leadership is based in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, but the gang has thousands of members across the United States. With numerous branches, or “cliques,” the MS-13 is the most violent criminal organization 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 and associates with carrying out more than 60 murders in the district, and has convicted dozens of MS-13 leaders, members, and associates in connection with those murders. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, which is comprised of agents and officers of the FBI, SCPD, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation Office, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, Hempstead Police Department, Rockville Centre Police Department, and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Paul G. Scotti, Justina L. Geraci, and Megan E. Farrell are in charge of the prosecution.
EDUARDO PORTILLO (also known as “Firuli” and “Tito”)
Residence: San Francisco Gotera, Morazán, El Salvador; formerly of Central Islip and Brentwood, New York
Docket: 16-CR-403 (S-7)(GRB)