Watch CBS News

Leniz Escobar, MS-13 associate nicknamed "La Diablita," found guilty of helping gang lure 4 young men to their deaths in New York

Nearly 100 arrested in MS-13 crackdown
Nearly 100 arrested in MS-13 crackdown on Long Island 00:52

A woman who was accused of helping the MS-13 gang kill four young men on Long Island in 2017 has been found guilty on all counts, federal prosecutors said Monday. Leniz Escobar was convicted in connection with her participation in the April 11, 2017 murders of Justin Llivicura, Michael Lopez, Jorge Tigre and Jefferson Villalobos.

Escobar, now 22, faces up to life in prison when she is sentenced.

Escobar, also known as "La Diablita" or "Little Devil," allegedly lured five men to a park in Central Islip to smoke marijuana. When they got there, the victims were attacked by gang members with machetes, knives, an axe and wooden clubs, prosecutors said. 

Leniz Escobar
Leniz Escobar CBS New York

One ran off, but the other four were killed. Prosecutors say the MS-13 members believed the victims were "members of a rival gang, at least two of whom had disrespected the MS-13 by posting photos on social media."

The four victims — who were between the ages of 16 and 20 — were found hacked to death with what police described as "significant trauma" wounds that Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said at the time indicated the work of MS-13.

"After the attack, the MS-13 members dragged the victims' bodies to a more secluded spot in the woods, piled them up, and then fled," prosecutors said, adding that the bodies were discovered the following evening.  

In the days following the murders, prosecutors allege Escobar "bragged to other MS-13 members about her role in the killings" and discussed the attack in detail in recorded calls with her boyfriend.

Prosecutors also say Escobar destroyed evidence of her involvement in the murders by disposing of a sweatshirt stained with a victim's blood and tossing her cell phone from a car while being followed by the police.

"With today's verdict, Escobar has been held responsible for the crucial role that she willingly played in orchestrating one of the most vicious and senseless mass murders in the district in memory," said United States Attorney Peace.  "The defendant showed utter disregard for human life by leading the victims into a killing field, to their slaughter, to enhance her stature with her fellow cold-blooded murderers within the MS-13 gang."   

More than a dozen MS-13 members and associates have been charged in connection with the 2017 killings.

Gang Violence-Long Island
The casket of Justin Llivicura, one of four young men found slain in a suspected MS-13 gang killing, is carried from St. Joseph the Worker Church after Llivicura's funeral, April 19, 2017, in East Patchogue, N.Y.  Frank Eltman / AP

MS-13, also called Mara Salvatrucha, is believed to have been founded as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by immigrants fleeing a civil war in El Salvador. It grew after some members were deported to El Salvador, helping turn that country into one of the most violent places in the world.

The gang is now a major international criminal enterprise, with tens of thousands of members in several Central American countries and many U.S. states.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.