U.S. Judge Indicts MS-13 Members With Murder, Racketeering
A federal judge indicted nine Maryland-based members of the brutal MS-13 gang for a racketerring conspiracy which involved murder, extortion and money laundering, the U.S Department of Justice said in a statement. Another group of 12 were charged with similar crimes in Virginia a second statement said.
“According to court documents, in the United States, MS-13 is organized into branches or ‘cliques.’ These defendants were allegedly members or associates of Weedams Locos Salvatrucha, an MS-13 clique operating primarily in the Adelphi, Maryland area,” said the DOJ about the first group.
“As alleged, the defendants extorted multiple victims, from whom they collected extortion payments, or “rent,” on a regular basis. Several of the defendants allegedly illicitly transferred this money to MS-13 associates in El Salvador,” it explained.
Two of the defendants were also alleged to have murdered an individual in retaliation for collusion with law enforcement.
“Witness retaliation will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland. “As alleged in the superseding indictment unsealed today, these MS-13 members not only extorted money from community members to support the gang — both in Maryland and in El Salvador — they also allegedly killed an individual who was cooperating with law enforcement.”
The second group was reportedly operating a cocaine trafficking operation from the New York area to Washington D.C.
“According to the indictment, the defendants were members/associates of the Sitios Locos Salvatrucha clique (STLS) of MS-13,” said the DOJ.”The indictment alleges that since at least in and around 2017, MS-13 members and associates regularly travelled to and from Long Island, New York, for the purpose of obtaining cocaine and transporting it to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, where they and other gang members would sell it primarily, in restaurants and nightclubs.”
To further that industry, the tefendants were alleged to have committed at least four murders.
The suspects in this case are charged with RICO conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, witness tampering, violations of the Controlled Substances Act, among other crimes. If convicted they face anything from ten years in prison to capital punishment.
MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha is one of the largest and most violent street gangs in America. Founded in California in the 1980s, the gang, which is largely restricted to the El Salvadoran community, has spread internationally and garnered a reputation for cruelty.
“MS-13 uses violence and intimidation to prey upon vulnerable communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Suppressing the gang has been a top priority for U.S. law enforcement for decades.