An MS-13 gang leader from Queens was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday, Nov. 28, in Brooklyn federal court for racketeering charges, including the murder of a 16-year-old victim in Bayside’s Alley Pond Park in 2017.
Melvi Amador-Rios, 32, of Briarwood, was convicted on 17 of 18 counts by a federal jury in August following a three-week trial and sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Rachel Kovner to life in prison for murder in-aid-of racketeering. Amador-Rios was also sentenced to 80 years in prison for four Hobbs Act robberies, 40 years in prison for ordering a non-fatal shooting and 38 years in prison for firearms charges, to run consecutive to the sentences on all other counts.
“The defendant will deservedly serve a life sentence for the murder, attempted murder and armed robberies he committed on behalf of MS-13,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “Today’s sentence reflects justice for the heinous and senseless nature of the defendant’s crimes and the terror he inflicted on his victims, their families and the community.”
As proven at trial, beginning in the fall of 2016, Amador-Rios was the leader of the Centrales Locos Salvatruchas (CLS) clique of MS-13, when he ordered two fellow CLS members to kill gang member Julio “Bad Boy” Vasquez on May 16, 2017, after the teenager failed to kill his friend, thus falling out of favor with MS-13. Amador-Rios, known on the streets as “Letal” and “Pinky,” suspected he was cooperating with law enforcement.
On May 16, 2017, Vasquez was lured to a wooded area of Alley Pond Park where co-conspirators Josue Leiva and Luis Rivas stabbed him more than 30 times, nearly decapitating him before leaving him to die. Vasquez’s body was discovered by a bird watcher who smelled and saw his decomposing body on May 21, 2017. Leiva and Rivas pleaded guilty on July 14, 2023, to racketeering charges, including Vasquez’s murder. They are awaiting sentencing.
Amador-Rios was also convicted of ordering a non-fatal shooting that left another 16-year-old, Louis Serrano of Jamaica, paralyzed. Amador-Rios ordered three associates to kill Serrano, a member of the rival 18th Street gang, during the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 2016. The hit team confronted Serrano at 179th Street and 90th Avenue in Jamaica Hills, where he was beaten and shot in the head. One of the accomplices went to shoot him a second time as he lay on the ground but the handgun malfunctioned.
Following the arrests of his associates, Amador-Rios informed them on a prison call that “you guys already have a pass, you know, to be homeboys, you know,” indicating that they would be promoted in the gang for committing the attempted murder. All three associates pleaded guilty to assault and attempted murder and other crimes and are awaiting sentencing.
Amador-Rios also participated in the armed robbery of a money transfer business during which an employee was pistol-whipped, three armed robberies of convenience stores in Jamaica, one during which a four-year-old child was present, and related firearms offenses.
“This is the culmination of another thorough, intelligence-led investigation of a violent gang member who will thankfully never have the opportunity to victimize another New Yorker,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said. “I commend our NYPD investigators and law enforcement partners, whose tireless efforts on this important case ensured today’s meaningful prison sentence. We vow to remain relentless in identifying, arresting, and holding to full account everyone responsible for driving crime and disorder in our city.”
Since 2003, hundreds of MS-13 members, including dozens of clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. A majority of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges
for participating in murders, attempted murders, and assaults.