(CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y.) — Alexi Saenz, a high-ranking member of the MS-13 gang, pleaded guilty in federal court in Central Islip, New York, on Wednesday to racketeering charges stemming from eight murders.

He faces between 40 and 70 years in prison as part of a plea agreement, prosecutors said.

Among the deaths Saenz pleaded guilty to were those of two Long Island teenagers — 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas and 15-year-old Nisa Mickens — who were killed in Sept. 2016. Prosecutors said several gang members chased them down and attacked them with baseball bats and a machete.

Prosecutors said the teens’ murders arose from a series of disputes and an altercation Cuevas and her friends had with people associated with MS-13 at Brentwood High School. After the altercation, the gang members “vowed to seek revenge against Cuevas,” according to prosecutors.

Saenz, along with several other suspected MS-13 gang members, were arrested for the teens’ deaths in 2017. Charges against his brother, Jairo Saenz, who was also arrested at the time, remain pending.

“To say that Alexi Saenz’s hands are drenched in blood does not begin to describe the multiple killings and extreme mayhem he personally directed and committed in the span of one year in Suffolk County,” Breon Peace, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a press release Wednesday. “While those murders and violent crimes were intended to further the sordid mission of the MS-13, the defendant has failed miserably.”

Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty for the two Saenz brothers, but Attorney General Merrick Garland said in 2023 they would no longer do so.

The murders of the two girls garnered national attention, with then-President Donald Trump inviting their parents to the 2018 State of the Union.

“Here tonight are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Robert Mickens,” Trump said during his speech. “Their two teenage daughters — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens — were close friends on Long Island. But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s16th birthday, neither of them came home. These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. Six members of the savage gang MS-13 have been charged with Kayla and Nisa’s murders.”

Saenz was charged in connection to the murders of six other people, all of whom the MS-13 members suspected of being affiliated with rival gangs, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors described Saenz as a ringleader in these killings, frequently instructing fellow gang members to carry out the attack or giving the greenlight to do so.

Saenz was also charged in connection with three attempted murders, arson, narcotics trafficking and firearms offenses.

Suffolk County Police Department acting Commissioner Robert E. Waring called Saenz’s crimes “senseless and barbaric.”

“The murders of teenagers Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens shook our communities and reverberated around the nation,” Waring said. “My hope is that this guilty plea will give the victims’ families some closure while also demonstrating our commitment to dismantling these criminal enterprises.”

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