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Growing 18th Street, MS-13 rivalry underscored by recent indictments, NYPD says

Alleged 18th Street member is accused in February killing of reputed MS-13 gangster and six others face charges connected to the slaying, officials say.

Alleged members of the 18th Street gang were

Alleged members of the 18th Street gang were indicted on Monday, April 30, for a Queens slaying as well as a racketeering scheme. Photo Credit: Theodore Parisienne

Seven reputed members and associates of the 18th Street gang were indicted Monday in a Queens slaying as well as a racketeering scheme investigators said has grown in the city along with the group’s rivalry with MS-13.

Among those charged was Yanki Misael Cruz-Mateo, 19, of Jamaica, Queens, accused of pulling the trigger in the Feb. 2 fatal shooting of a reputed MS-13 gang member from Elizabeth, New Jersey, according to the indictment.

Cruz-Mateo and the other defendants face various charges, including murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder, and alien in possession of a firearm, court papers said.

Investigators focused on Cruz-Mateo, also known as “Doggy,” after police found text messages on his phone in which he admitted shooting the victim, also 19, for being an MS-13 gang member, according to the court papers.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown called the killing a “merciless execution.” Cruz-Mateo is being held without bail. Defense attorney Sanford Talkin declined to comment.

The NYPD suspects the 18th Street gang — a violent group of mainly Mexican and Central American immigrants — is coming into conflict around the city with the larger and better known MS-13. The main turf of the 18th Street gang, which is organized into local chapters called “canchas,” is believed to be in Queens around Roosevelt Avenue, police said.

While much of law enforcement attention in the region has focused on MS-13, the rival 18th Street is believed by law enforcement officials to have been behind numerous acts of violence, particularly in Queens.

“18th Street right now is coming up to MS-13,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce in an interview days before he retired last month. “There are a lot of them in New Jersey, but we have them in Queens.”

NYPD officials Tuesday declined to comment on 18th Street.

FBI officials have said the gang signifies membership with tattoos and graffiti showing the number “18” or variation of the number, such as “666,” which, when added up, total 18.

In April, anti-police graffiti with 18th Street markings was found in Riverhead’s Wildwood Lake Park, raising community concerns there about the gang’s possible expanding presence.

In one recent brutal case, the FBI said reputed 18th Street gang members took a victim from Manhattan on a bus to Turkey Point State Forest in upstate Saugerties. In a gruesome scene captured on a cellphone video later seized by the FBI, the victim was repeatedly stabbed in the state forest, his throat cut and his body dumped in a grave.

“Let me take his ear off,” said one assailant with the knife as he stood over the body of a groaning man lying in the grave. The victim’s left ear was sliced off and tossed on the body before it was buried.

In February, three reputed Long Island MS-13 gang members were charged with murder after luring Julio Espantzay-Gonzalez, 18, of Hempstead, to a Massapequa park before killing him, police said.

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