BROOKLYN, N.Y. (PIX11) — An alleged MS-13 gang member is accused of ordering a hit on two New York City teens — one whose nearly decapitated body was found in the woods and the other living as a quadriplegic, authorities said Monday while wrapping up a two-week trial in Brooklyn federal court.
Melvi Amador-Rios, aka “Letal” and “Pinky,” is charged with racketeering, murder, conspiracy, and a slew of other charges for his alleged roles in a deadly stabbing, shooting, and a string of robberies in Queens about five years ago.
“The defendant was the one signing death warrants,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Moore said during closing arguments.
Prosecutors alleged Julio Vasquez, 16, was lured to Alley Pond Park in Queens where he was brutally stabbed about two dozen times in May 2017. Josue “Colocho” Leiva, 26, and Luis “Inquieto” Rivas, 28, slashed the teen in the torso, spine, and neck, leaving him almost decapitated, authorities said. Leiva and Rivas pleaded guilty to their roles in the attack, according to court records.
A bird watcher found his body covered in maggots and blowflies in the woods a few days later, authorities said.
Amador-Rios allegedly ordered the hit on Vasquez because the victim had failed to complete a gang order to kill someone. The defendant also suspected the teen was a snitch working for the cops, according to prosecutors.
“They tried to remove his neck,” Moore said.
Amador-Rios also allegedly ordered his crew to kill Luis Serrano, now 22, because he thought the then-teen was a member of the rival 18th Street gang, authorities said. Prosecutors allege a few members of MS-13 jumped Serrano in Queens back in 2016.
Jose Gonzalez testified Amador-Rios told him to kill Serrano, prosecutors said. But Gonzalez was not the one who pulled the trigger.
Serrano was in the hospital for seven months and has several spinal surgeries. He testified that he still has pain 24/7.
“He (the defendant) was good at keeping his hands clean,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Karamigios said.
Authorities claimed Amador-Rios was either involved in or ordered a bunch of violent armed robberies in Queens in 2018, including one where the owner was pistol-whipped and another where the store owner and her 4-year-old son were held at gunpoint.
The defendant’s brother, Santos Amador-Rios, was part of the robbery crew and testified about the defendant’s role in the crimes.
“I love him a lot, you know, but faith has put us here. It isn’t like I want to do what I am doing right now, but I cannot rot in jail. He knows that and I know that I love him a lot, but there’s nothing that I can do,” Santos Amador-Rios said, according to court documents.
The defense, however, argued there was no physical evidence—DNA, fingerprints, video, or photos- tying the defendant to the crimes. The case had hinged on the cooperating witnesses who made deals with the government to either get reduced jail time or citizenship, the defense argued.
Attorney Murray Singer told the jury even the defendant’s brother had an incentive to testify against his sibling because he refused to rot in jail.
“They’ve sold their story to a willing buyer,” Singer said of the cooperating witnesses in the case. “Please, please don’t fall for this.”
The jury will begin deliberations Tuesday.