MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – The alleged East Coast crime boss of the notorious street gang MS-13 has been ordered held without bail at his first court appearance on Long Island, where prosecutors accuse him of having a hand in a wave of violence.
Miguel Angel Corea Diaz – aka “Reaper” – had been jailed in Maryland in a separate drug case. Drug Enforcement Administration agents transported him to Nassau County on Wednesday for his Thursday hearing.
When the charges against Corea Diaz and 16 other defendants with alleged ties to MS-13 were announced earlier this year, DEA officials described him as the “point man on the East Coast who would report to MS-13 hierarchy in El Salvador.”
Officials say Corea Diaz’s nickname of “Reaper” was well deserved.
“An appropriate name, since he chose his victims like the Grim Reaper, leaving murder and mayhem in his wake,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt.
He allegedly ran the MS-13 “Sailors Clique.” He faces charges of conspiracy to commit murder and drug trafficking. If convicted of the most serious charge, Corea Diaz faces up to 25 years to life in prison.
An indictment alleges the 35-year-old Corea Diaz ordered beatings and killings and directed the gang’s drug operations in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Texas and elsewhere.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas says that what started as a routine drug investigation mushroomed into a 22 agency takedown of the the East Coast’s highest ranking MS-13 leader. Wiretaps of gang conference calls reavealed Diaz gave order on who and how to kill.
“He was getting down to details on how deep to dig a hole to dispose of a body,” Singas said.
Among those murdered by his alleged underlings is 16-year-old Angel Solar of Freeport, who was lured into the woods.
Diaz is the alleged kingpin of more than a dozen gang members rounded up in January.
Long Island is at the epicenter of the crackdown after the ruthless machete killings of two teenage girls in Brentwood.
“With today’s arraignment, we now have the highest-ranking MS-13 member on the East Coast in custody,” Singas said.
“By arresting the head of the Northeast faction of MS-13, we have crippled MS-13’s operations both in New York and in El Salvador,” said Hunt.
“This investigation proved the law enforcement agencies working together in this community are making an impact on stopping the violent MS-13 gang. Anyone associated with MS-13 should be warned that you won’t be able to commit a crime and simply leave town,” said William F. Sweeney, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office.
Under heavy guard in Nassau County court, Diaz pleaded not guilty through an intepreter.
Officials say he’s in the country illegally after being deported once before, and was extradited from his base of operations in Maryland.
The investigation enabled authorities to thwart two murders, including one in Elizabeth, New Jersey, officials said.
With his arrest, the question arises of whether there will be gang warfare to fill the void, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
Singas says whatever comes, law enforcement will continue its unrelenting assault on MS-13.
Nassau County police also issued a bulletin to officers that a credible informant for the Hempstead Police Department said “MS-13 stated they are looking to shoot a cop in the Hempstead area.”
The following alert was broadcast to police departments: “Members of MS-13 have been stating that police have been making too many arrests and it’s time to take the streets back and take out and shoot a cop like we do in El Salvador.”
A second threat to kill law enforcement in the Hempstead area was received Wednesday night, though police would not say whether it was MS-13 related.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)