MS-13 member gets 55 years in prison for quadruple machete murder

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CENTRAL ISLIP -

An MS-13 gang member was sentenced Wednesday to 55 years in prison for his role in a quadruple machete murder.

Josue Portillo, of Central Islip, pleaded guilty last year.

Portillo previously admitted that when he was 15, he used a machete to kill 20-year-old Michael Banegas in the group attack.

Prosecutors say Portillo had a prior dispute with one of the victims, who he believed was in a rival gang. He reported it to MS-13 and then got the green light to lure the four into the deadly ambush in the park, using girls and promises of marijuana.

Portillo's attorney told the judge his client had a rough life in El Salvador, starting to smoke marijuana at age 12, living with his grandmother, and then being smuggled into the U.S. and being sent to Central Islip. He described his client as having a "juvenile" brain at the time of the attack.

Right before sentencing, Portillo begged the judge: "Please do not put me in jail for the rest of my life," saying he joined the gang because of the "soccer, girls and marijuana offered by MS-13."

Banegas' father Carlos said the sentence is fine because of Portillo's age. He even expressed some compassion, saying, "Just like we lost a son, his family has lost their son also." And Lourdes Banegas remembered her son as intelligent and affectionate.

Portillo is the first of more than a dozen alleged gang members arrested in the case to be sentenced.

Portillo's attorney says he plans to appeal the sentencing, saying 55 years offers no chance at rehabilitation for his client. If the sentence stands as it is now, Portillo will be 73 years old when released and will be deported to his native El Salvador.

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