A Long Island gang member who federal officials say lured his girlfriend and her 2-year-old son to their executions has been added to the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list, officials said at a March 26 news conference in New York.
Juan Elias Garcia – who also uses the nickname “Cruzito” – is wanted in connection with the murders of his 19-year-old girlfriend Vanessa Argueta and her 2-year-old son Diego Torres.
Officials said the MS-13 gang member was involved in “a romantic relationship” with Argueta, who had ties to the 18th Street Gang and The Latin Kings. Garcia later told his MS-13 buddies that some of Argueta’s acquaintances – members of rival gangs – had threatened him and he believed she was providing them with information, the FBI said.
“When he relayed his suspicions about Vanessa to fellow MS-13 members Adalberto Ariel Guzman and Rene Mendez Mejia, they sought and obtained from their leader, Heriberto Martinez, to retaliate against her,” FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said.
Garcia asked Argueta out to dinner and he – along with Mejia and Guzman – picked up the young mom and son with the plan to execute them, federal officials allege.
“When he arrived and learned that she could not obtain a babysitter and intended instead to bring her child with her, Garcia did not blink an eye, he did not delay the plan, he did not call off the murder-conspiracy,” said Loretta Lynch, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
The trio drove Argueta and her son to a wooded area in Central Islip, where Garcia and Mejia shot her in the head and chest with a .22 caliber handgun, she added. Lynch said Garcia didn’t try to protect the young boy from his two alleged accomplices, even as Diego “clung to his [Garcia’s] leg in tears,” before Guzman grabbed the gun and shot the toddler in the head.
“Guzman decided the penalty for disrespecting the gang was death,” Venizelos said. “The execution-style murders of Vanessa and her 2-year-old son is a new low, even for MS-13.”
Mejia and Guzman were arrested a few months after the shooting are remain behind bars, as they await sentencing. Martinez was convicted and sentenced for his role in the double homicide and is serving more than three life terms in prison.
Garcia, now 21, remains on the run from authorities and was last spotted working at a clothing store in Honduras in 2011. The El Salvador native – the 501st person to be placed on to the FBI’s Most Wanted list – speaks both English and Spanish, officials said. The FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to his arrest.
“The FBI will not stop looking for Garcia,” Venizelos said. “We will continue to follow every lead, look under every rock, until Garcia is made to answer for his crimes.”