Federal, local law enforcers target MS-13 gang in Los Angeles

In what is said to be the largest ever crackdown on the gang in Los Angeles, hundreds of federal and local law enforcement officers spread out across the city to serve arrests and search warrants, Reuters reported.

A federal agent questions people in handcuffs during a raid early Wednesday morning in Los Angeles.

The suspects are all charged in a 41-count federal indictment. Twenty suspects were already in custody, and three are considered fugitives, officials said. The designation gave the U.S. Treasury Department the power to freeze any financial assets from the gang or its members, and prohibits financial institutions from engaging in any transactions with members of the group. Agents approached in an armored vehicle down a narrow alleyway behind the small business. "They're a transnational or global gang".

Charges include federal racketeering and narcotics conspiracy. Killings for the protection of the gang are common, say federal authorities, and are sometimes carried out with machetes.

The arrests included 12 senior leaders of the gang, according to the US attorney's office in Los Angeles.

The high-ranking gang members had formed a de facto MS-13 leadership council, a committee that was needed because no one person was willing to take on the top role in light of ongoing scrutiny by law enforcement, authorities said. Most of the suspects were facing decades in federal prison without the possibility of parole, according to Brown. A friend of the victim was also stabbed during the attack. Brown said the infamous group was responsible for the murders of rival gang members and innocent bystanders, as well as drug-dealing and extortion.

Rivas is accused of murdering a man August 30, 2015, at a strip mall in Pacoima, and Molina is accused of murdering a man September 27, 2015, on a street in North Hollywood. Molina is accused of murdering a man on September 27, 2015 on a street in North Hollywood. Prosecutors will decide at a later date whether to seek the death penalty. About a dozen of those arrested were so-called "shot callers" for the gang.

MS-13, short for Mara Salvatrucha, originated in Los Angeles with El Salvadoran immigrants who had fled that country's civil war. Salvadorans congregated in large numbers in the Pico-Union neighborhood and the area near MacArthur Park. The administration, however, has failed to give the media data on how many MS-13 members are believed to be in the USA illegally, CNN reported. Since then the gang's membership has ballooned to at least 10,000 members in the United States and more than 30,000 worldwide, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Treasury Department. In the run-up to that incident, the gang had been linked to at least five killings in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.

Lopez is accused of fatally shooting an innocent bystander who was confronted on August 15, 2015, inside the gang-controlled Little San Salvador Nightclub and Restaurant on North Western Avenue in Los Angeles. MS-13 hubs in the USA tend to center around pockets of immigrants from Central America. It was unclear how long they had been in the United States or what countries they are from.

The massive sweep capped a almost three-year investigation involving federal, state and local law enforcement authorities.

Despite the long history Los Angeles authorities have with MS-13, the gang has found a recent spotlight under the Trump administration as part of its border security and immigration enforcement efforts, though the administration has been unable to provide reporters any data on how many MS-13 members are believed to be in the United States illegally.

In April, President Trump tweeted about the gang, blaming the Obama administration as a cause for their formation.

  • Larry Hoffman