Leniz Escobar — a Long Island woman who earned the nickname “La Diablita” after luring several young men into a deadly MS-13 ambush — was convicted on all charges against her on Monday, April 11.
Escobar was charged with multiple counts of racketeering tied to predicate acts of murder, conspiracy to murder rival gang members, murder in aid of racketeering, and obstruction of justice (she pleaded not guilty to all charges). She is awaiting sentencing and faces up to life in prison.
The incident took place in 2017 when Escobar was 17. Prosecutors accused her of luring five men (all aged 20, or younger) into a park to smoke marijuana. At that point, members of MS-13 allegedly sprung their attack, killing four men with machetes and knives, while the fifth got away. Escobar also faced charges for allegedly tossing her cellphone and destroying a SIM card.
“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,” Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. “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. It is my hope that Escobar’s conviction will bring some measure of closure to the relatives of the victims and serve as a warning to other gang members that this Office, together with our law enforcement partners, will not rest until everyone responsible for these murders is held accountable and the MS-13 no longer poses a danger to our district.”
Statement by U. S. Attorney Breon Peace on the Leniz Escobar MS-13 Verdict:https://t.co/MLsgMRuWRO
The transcripts of the video in English and Spanish are available on our website. @USAttorneys
— US Attorney EDNY (@EDNYnews) April 11, 2022
As ABC 7 in New York reported, prosecutors claimed that Escobar was trying to curry favor with MS-13, as the group supposedly believed the five men were members of a rival group, the 18th Street Gang. The victims’ families have denied any gang affiliation and, during opening statements, prosecutors argued that they weren’t in any gangs and had earned MS-13’s ire solely for posting photos of them holding up gang signs on social media “trying to look tough and get attention.”
Prosecutors claimed that Escobar and a co-conspirator, Keyli Gomez — who ended up working with prosecutors — showed the gang-related photos to MS-13 members, which is how the gang decided to attack the young men. Gomez testified during the trial that she and Escobar drove with the victims to the park, led them to a predetermined area, and alerted MS-13 members via text when they arrived. After the attack, the bodies were dragged to another area, where they were discovered the next day.
During the trial, prosecutors released a phone call between Escobar and her boyfriend, allegedly a high-ranking MS-13 member, that took place the day after the murders. During the recorded call, Escobar appeared to discuss the attack and the one person who got away in slightly veiled terms saying, “The person that missed the trains spilled the beans… he spilled the beans with the cops.”
The one person who successfully fled the attack testified during the trial as well. He said after the ambush, the victims were told to get on their knees, but he successfully got up, leapt over a fence, and outran two other people to get to safety.
Escobar’s lawyer, meanwhile, unsuccessfully tried to argue that she neither knew the men would be murdered that night, nor had any connection with those who carried out the attack. The defense also claimed Escobar wasn’t in MS-13 and that she only relied on her boyfriend for protection.