Federal authorities have declared the notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang as a “transnational criminal organization” on Thursday, giving them more tools to fight the Los Angeles-based street gang.
Thanks to the designation, federal officials will now be able to seize the assets of gang members that are found within the jurisdiction of the United States, reports The Los Angeles Times.
The designation as a criminal organization is the first for a US street gang. Similarly designated organizations include Japan’s Yakuza and Mexico’s Zetas, whose leader, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed by Mexican Marines on Sunday, though an armed gang later stole his body.
The administration is using the designation to target the economic core of the MS-13 gang, along with the individuals who work with, enable, and/or support it by freezing their assets.
A spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, Hagar Chemali, stated on Thursday:
“It is our hope that this action will generate caution within the formal financial sector to the operations of this group. Financial institutions across the U.S. and foreign branches of U.S. financial institutions are obligated to immediately identify and freeze property or property interests of MS-13 and to report any such blocked assets to the Treasury Department.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, the MS-13 gang has at least 30,000 members in countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. The gang is also considered one of the most dangerous and also rapidly expanding gangs in the world. David Cohen, undersecretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, stated:
“MS-13 is an extremely violent and dangerous gang responsible for a multitude of crimes that directly threaten the welfare and security of U.S. citizens, as well as countries throughout Central America. This action positions us to target the associates and financial networks supporting MS-13, and gives law enforcement an additional tool in its efforts to disrupt MS-13’s activities.”
The MS-13 gang is also active in the US, with more than 8,000 members operating in over 40 states, along with Washington DC. They have been known to be involved with crimes like murder, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, and human trafficking.