Brentwood Gang Member Charged With Murder

Byron Lopez
Bryon “Viruz” Lopez posing with a machete in a Facebook photo provided by prosecutors.

U.S. Marshals apprehended Thursday a reputed member of the Brentwood chapter of the street gang MS-13 who was wanted for his alleged role in killing a teenager last year, authorities said.

Oscar Wellman Espinoza-Merino, also known as “Speedy” and “Petey,” was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit murder in-aid-of racketeering, murder in-aid-of racketeering, obstruction-of-justice murder and firearms offenses.

Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said that the gang, which has roots in El Salvador, is responsible for a “particularly brutal brand of violence and lawlessness in neighborhoods throughout Queens and Long Island.”

Prosecutors said the 32-year-old suspect and other alleged gang members lured Sidney Valverde, a 19-year-old fellow MS-13 member, to Miller Place Beach under the guise of conducting business there, when they allegedly shot him in the back of the head on Feb. 25, 2014.

Investigators believe that the gang killed Valverde because they suspected him of cooperating with federal law enforcement, authorities said. A beachcomber found his body two weeks after he was slain.

Byron “Viruz” Lopez, the 23-year-old alleged leader of a Queens chapter of the gang, was previously accused of ordering the murder. He has pleaded not guilty to the same charges as Espinoza-Merino, who is scheduled to be arraigned Friday at Brooklyn federal court.

The arrests were the result of a joint investigation involving Suffolk County police, New York City police, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives and Firearms.

If convicted, Espinoza-Merino and Byron Lopez each face up to life in prison.