Jamaica gang member pleads guilty to 2018 murder of MS-13 member

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A Jamaica gang member pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court to the grisly murders of an MS-13 member in Jamaica Hills and a fellow gang member who was suspected of snitching to law enforcement.

A Jamaica gang-member admitted he murdered two men, including the 2018 assassination of an 18-year-old MS-13 rival in Flushing, and butchering another victim who was stabbed more than a hundred times in 2017.

Yanki Misael Cruz-Mateo, 25, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in connection to the two murders Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court and faces up to life in prison at sentencing.

Cruz-Mateo, known on the streets as “Yankee Mateo” videotaped one of the murders and sent the chilling clips to other gang members as a warning to not cooperate with law enforcement.

“Cruz-Mateo had boasted of his participation in the murders in a horrific video and in text messages, but today’s admission in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn holds him accountable for two savage killings committed for the purpose of instilling fear and promoting gang violence,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said.

According to court filings at statements made during the guilty plea proceeding, Cruz-Mateo was a member of the Jamaica-based Shatto Park Locos Sureños sect of the 18th Street gang when he shot and killed 20-year-old Oscar Antonio Blanco-Hernandez, a member of the notorious MS-13 gang, on 160th Street near 85th Avenue in Jamaica Hills on Feb. 2, 2018. Hernandez was found dead with gunshots to his head and groin.

The previous year, Cruz-Mateo lured a fellow gang member, 20-year-old Jonathan Figueroa to travel with him from Queens to Kingston, in upstate Ulster County, where on the night of Oct. 24, 2017, they met up with other 18th Street gang members.

Hours later, during the early morning hours of Oct. 25, 2017, they brought Figueroa to Turkey Point State Forest where they stabbed him to death and buried him in a shallow grave. Cruz-Mateo ordered the brutal slaying to be video-recorded — capturing multiple 18th Street gang associates repeatedly stabbing Figueroa, slashing his throat, amputating his ear, and dragging his body.

In the grisly video, Cruz-Mateo stated that Figueroa was being murdered for “being a rat.” Cruz-Mateo then sent the video to other 18th Street gang members as a warning not to disrespect the gang or cooperate with law enforcement.

Figueroa’s body was discovered in February 2018 by the FBI, along with state and local law enforcement authorities in a five-foot-deep makeshift grave. He had more than a hundred stab wounds including one to the head that was inflicted with such force that it fractured his skull and he had a slash wound to the throat that ruptured his trachea.

After the murder of Blanco-Hernandez in Jamaica Hills, Cruz-Mateo fled Queens and returned to upstate Kingston. He was arrested by FBI agents in February of 2018 following a statewide manhunt.

“While the defendant’s guilty plea cannot bring back the two lives senselessly taken or undo the cruelty of his actions, it is my hope that it will bring a measure of closure to his victims’ families,” Peace said.

Cruz-Mateo’s co-defendants Yoni Alexander Sierra, 25, of Jamaica, Jose Jiminez Chacon, 25, of New Brunswick, NJ, and Israel Mediola Flores, 29, of Kingston, previously pleaded guilty to the murder of Blanco-Hernandez and are currently awaiting sentencing. Flores previously pleaded guilty to the murder of Figueroa and was sentenced to more than 35 years in federal prison.