Two dozen members of the notorious MS-13 gang have been indicted on racketeering charges in Los Angeles. Among those charged is the executive director of a non-profit gang intervention organizations.
Charges range from murder to conspiracy to commit murder and extortion to narcotics trafficking.
The unsealed 16-count federal indictment covers a period of 15 years and alleges that the gang was responsible for seven murders and eight conspiracies to commit murder during since 1995.
Five of the defendants are charged with conspiring to murder a veteran LAPD Gang Unit detective. The indictment also charges Alex Sanchez, the executive director of "Homies Unidos," a non-profit organization which purports to use the public and private charitable contributions it receives for gang intervention efforts, with, among other things, conspiracy to murder.
“Today, in Los Angeles, where the MS-13 gang was formed, we are holding its leaders accountable for the violence and intimidation they have used to bring terror to the citizens living and working within the gang’s territory,” said Thomas P. O’Brien, the United States Attorney in Los Angeles. “We will continue to work with all of our law enforcement partners, both local and federal, to ensure that this gang’s leaders’ are held accountable for their criminal conduct.”
The indictment announced today is a result of a three-year investigation by the FBI and the LAPD which focused on the leadership of multiple cliques of the MS-13 gang, spanning from 1995 to the present. MS-13 members and associates allegedly used violence and intimidation to control narcotics sales and distribution within its claimed territory and to collect extortion payments or "rent" from gang members and non-gang members who conducted business, including legitimate concerns, within its territory.
Los Angeles is the birthplace for MS-13, or "Mara Salvatrucha-13," formed by immigrants who fled the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s. The number "13" relates to the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, or "M," a known to reference "La Eme," or the Mexican Mafia, a California-based prison gang that exercises control over MS-13 members and other street gangs whose members pay taxes in exchange for protection. The gang is estimated to have several thousand members in numerous U.S. cities, as well as throughout Central America and Mexico, and is known for its brutality.
If convicted of the federal racketeering charges, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty ranging from 25 years to life in prison.
In addition to the 24 defendants listed in the indictment, at least 15 other people were arrested for charges unrelated to the federal indictment. Three children were also taken into protective custody.