Second murder rap for alleged 18th Street gangster suspected in Saugerties slay

An alleged gang member already facing federal racketeering and murder conspiracy charges for the Oct. 25, 2017 murder of a suspected informant in a Saugerties forest has been charged in the Feb. 2, 2018 slaying of a man in Queens.

Yanki Misael Cruz-Mateo, 19, has been in federal custody since Feb. 21 when he was arrested by Kingston police during a traffic stop. City police, working with the FBI, state police and the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office, had been seeking Cruz-Mateo and three other alleged members of a local cancha or cell of the 18th Street gang. On Oct. 25, 2017, cops believe Cruz-Mateo brought a fellow gang member and suspected informant to Kingston, where they were met by Kingston-based gang associates. The group allegedly brought their victim to a spot in the Turkey Point Forest Preserve in Saugerties. A video obtained by the FBI from an informant depicts Cruz-Mateo and another gang member stabbing and mutilating the victim before dumping him in a pre-dug grave at the site.

At the time of his arrest, the FBI believed Cruz-Mateo was hiding out at the Franklin Street residence of gang associate Christian Perez after the gunning down of Oscar Antonio Blanco-Hernandez, 20, of Elizabeth, N.J. At 6:40 p.m. on Feb. 2, Blanco-Hernandez was found dying from gunshot wounds to his groin and head on 160th Street in the Jamaica Heights neighborhood of Queens. Court documents suggest that Cruz-Mateo shot Blanco-Hernandez because he believed he was a member of 18th Street’s bitter rival, MS-13. The same FBI affidavit suggests that the murder weapon in the Feb. 2 slaying was the same .32-caliber Cobra semi-automatic pistol depicted in a video of Cruz-Mateo rapping about killing gang rivals.

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On May 1, Cruz-Mateo, who remains in federal custody, was hit with state second-degree murder charges for the Blanco-Hernandez killing. Also arrested on state murder charges in the case were Saudi Levy Ramirez, 24, of Brooklyn and Carolina Morel Cruz, 24, and Jose Jimenez Chacon, 19, both of New Brunswick, N.J. A fifth man, Alexander “Yoni” Sierra of Queens, was arrested back on March 14 and charged with second-degree murder in the killing.