A 22-year-old woman who lured four young men to be hacked to death by machete-wielding MS-13 street gang members in Central Islip was convicted on the fifth anniversary of the quadruple murder.
A jury found Leniz “Diablita” Escobar, whose nickname is Spanish for Little Devil, guilty Monday of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder, obstruction of justice, and murder in aid-of racketeering following a four-week-long trial at Central Islip federal court, not far from the scene of the deadliest mass murder on Long Island in years. A fifth intended victim who fled the scene testified at the trial.
“Those five young men, in the prime of their lives, had no idea that Escobar was leading them to their death — into a killing field where MS-13 gang members lay in wait, armed with machetes, an axe, knives, tree limbs, and a chisel,” said Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “One of the young men managed to escape and lived to tell his story to a federal jury. His four friends were not so fortunate. Escobar’s cohorts hacked and beat them to death.”
Prosecutors said the Islip Terrace resident and co-conspirator Keyli Gomez, who believed two of the victims disrespected the gang by posting photos online falsely suggesting they were MS-13 members, lured the victims to the woods near the soccer fields at the Central Islip Recreation Center on April 11, 2017.
The gang members surrounded the victims, attacked them, dragged the victims’ bodies to a more secluded spot, and piled them up, where the remains were found the following day. The victims were identified as 16-year-old Justin Llivicura of East Patchogue, 20-year-old Michael Lopez Banegas and Jorge Tigre of Bellport, Jefferson Villalobos of Pompano Beach, Fla., both 18, police have said. One of the murder victims was so disfigured he was only identifiable by dental records, prosecutors said.
Escobar, who was an associate of the gang’s Leeward and Brentwood cliques, later bragged to other MS-13 members about her role in the killings and the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force recorded phone calls with her boyfriend, a high ranking member of the gang, discussing the attack, according to investigators.
“Four individuals took the train and who knows when they’ll be back, got me?” Escobar said in what prosecutors described as barely coded language describing the murders. “But one of them, one of them managed to still be here on the map” and “he knows stuff about me.”
Escobar disposed of a sweatshirt stained with the blood of a victim, threw her cell phone from a moving vehicle when she was being followed by police, and falsely told detectives that she and Gomez were victims of a robbery in the park on the night of the murders, authorities said.
More than a dozen MS-13 members and associates have been charged in connection with the case. Escobar faces up to life in prison when she is sentenced by Judge Joseph F. Bianco. Gomez, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in connection with the murders, is awaiting sentencing.