An alleged 18th Street gang member from Long Island is among three men facing charges for their roles in the murder of a teenager and attempted murder of rivals, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue announced.
Jonathan “Scooby” Zelaya-Diaz, 25, of Hempstead, has been charged in Brooklyn federal court with conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder in aid of racketeering for his alleged involvement in directing the murders of rivals.
Donoghue said that Zelaya-Diaz remains at large.
Queens residents Junior Zelaya-Canales, 23, a regional leader of the 18th Street gang, was charged with murder in aid of racketeering in connection to the September 2016 fatal shooting of 15-year-old Josue Guzman in Hempstead; and Eric Chavez, 20, was charged with attempted murder and assault in aid of racketeering. Both were taken into custody this week.
In 2016, Zelaya-Canales allegedly directed two lower-level gang members to kill Guzman to demonstrate their allegiance to the 18th Street gang. It was alleged that Guzman had offended certain 18th Street gang members and the shooting was in retaliation.
On Sept. 12, 2016, at approximately 1 a.m., the Hempstead Police Department responded to a report of shots fired near the intersection of Linden Avenue and Laurel Avenue in Hempstead. Upon arrival, officers found Guzman’s body lying near the curb, shot once in the back of the head. Guzman was pronounced dead at the scene.
"It defies comprehension these gang members are allegedly murdering and attempting to murder human beings for respect in their gang or in retaliation for some perceived slight,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said. “Josue Guzman was just 15-years-old when he was shot and killed because someone deemed him to be disrespectful.
"We may never be able to change the mindlessness of a teenager being killed for no reason, but we can certainly make sure anyone who commits such a grotesque act will suffer the consequences.”
Donoghue said that it on July 9, 2017, Zelaya-Canales, Zelaya-Diaz and a third 18th Street gang member allegedly directed the shooting of rival gang members over a turf dispute in Queens. At approximately 10:30 p.m., police were dispatched to 86th Road in Woodhaven, where there were reports of shots fired. At the scene, investigators recovered nine 9mm shell casings.
NYPD detectives investigating the shooting searched Zelaya-Canales’s apartment on Aug. 9, 2017, and recovered a 9mm Ruger handgun with a defaced serial number, four rounds of 9mm ammunition, 56 rounds of .357 magnum ammunition, 34 rounds of .380 caliber ammunition and 23 rounds of .38 ammunition.
According to the indictment, ballistic tests subsequently revealed that the Ruger handgun was the weapon that fired the 9-millimeter shell casings found at the scene of the shooting in Woodhaven.
“The superseding indictment and arrests announced today are a significant step in dismantling a violent street gang in our district,” Donoghue said. “This Office, with the assistance of local and federal law enforcement partners, will not relent until violent street gangs that endanger communities have been eradicated.”
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