A Jamaica man and reputed street gang member faces federal murder conspiracy charges for allegedly taking part in the execution of an associate whom he believed had turned into a government informant.
Yanki Misael Cruz-Mateo, 19, of Jamaica and three cohorts — Israel Mediola Flores, 23, Sergio Gerrardo Herrera-Hidalgo, 19, and Cristian Perez, 20, all residents of Kingston, NY — were indicted on March 22 for their alleged roles in the October 2017 slaying of the alleged informant at an upstate New York park.
All four suspects, according to U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, are members of 18th Street, described as “a violent street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from Central America and Mexico with members located throughout Queens, New York and elsewhere.”
“These defendants committed and concealed a brutal murder against one of their own members because they suspected he had been cooperating with law enforcement,” Donoghue said in a statement. “Violent street gangs like 18th Street perpetuate bloodshed to maintain allegiance and increase members’ status within the gang.”
Prosecutors said that Cruz-Mateo lured the 18th Street gang member, whose name and age were not disclosed by federal authorities, to the upstate town of Kingston on the night of Oct. 24, 2017. The suspect and alleged informant traveled by bus to Kingston, where they met with Herrera-Hidalgo, who then escorted them to Turkey Point State Forest, a 140-acre park near the Hudson River in Ulster County.
Shortly after arriving at the park, prosecutors said, Cruz-Mateo, Herrera-Hidalgo and Flores repeatedly stabbed the alleged informant about the body. The suspects then dug a grave in the forest and buried the victim there.
Law enforcement sources said that the murder was filmed, and Cruz-Mateo sent it to another individual; the FBI, as part of its investigation, managed to obtain the video, which showed Flores allegedly slashing the victim’s neck, and Cruz-Mateo severing one of his ears.
Prosecutors said that Cruz-Mateo allegedly fled to Kingston in February after sending out text messages in which he claimed to have shot a rival gang member in Queens. Perez allegedly kept Cruz-Mateo in Kingston in an attempt to hide him from authorities.
Cruz-Mateo, Herrera-Hidalgo and Flores were each indicted of murder conspiracy and face life imprisonment if convicted. Perez was indicted for aiding and abetting Cruz-Mateo and, if convicted, could serve up to 15 years behind bars.