MS-13 gang members now appear active, possibly embedded, far from states along the United States border with Mexico. The latest round of gang sweeps to net suspected members of the brutal Mara Salvatrucha resulted in 13 arrests in Ohio and Indiana, according to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of the Buckeye State.
“Before today it may not have been well known by the public that MS-13 was even in Columbus, Ohio, and the surrounding areas,” the United States attorney for the region, Benjamin Glassman, said.
The alleged MS-13 gang members and associates have been arrested on a plethora of charges, including federal extortion and conspiracy in both Ohio and Indiana. Five of the suspected gang members have also been charged with transnational criminal organization and illegal immigration offenses.
Two of the MS-13 suspected members focused upon in the gang sweeps evaded law enforcement officers and are now believed to be on the run, CBS News reports. The Mara Salvatrucha is considered to be a substantial international crime enterprise comprised of “tens of thousands” of members in Central America, and it is now in many states in America.
Mara Salvatrucha is believed to have originated as a Los Angeles street gang formed by immigrants from El Salvador during the mid-1980s.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 15, 2017
The ranks of MS-13 swelled after some Los Angeles members were deported back to their home nation, one of the most violent countries around the globe. Some of the highest-ranking MS-13 gang leaders are currently imprisoned in El Salvador.
The United States attorney for the Ohio Southern District told the press that the MS-13 members charged earlier today belong to the group’s “Columbus clique.” This branch of the Mara Salvatrucha reports to the East Coast gang group and, ultimately, to the leadership of the group in El Salvador, according to Glassman.
Glassman went on to say violence is the “calling card” of MS-13 and that the arrests made today are the first step in a concerted effort to “completely” dismantle the street gang in the Columbus area. The gang has more than 10,000 members active in America and is currently operating in at least 40 states, WOSU radio reports.
Eight of suspected MS-13 gang members arrested in Ohio and Indiana also had extortion, money laundering, and weapons charges levied against them. Ten suspected MS-13 gang members were indicted on threatened or actual use of force to intimidate victims extortion charges, according to a media release by the United States Department of Justice.
Victims of alleged MS-13 extortion in Cbus are encouraged to call the anonymous hotline 614-849-1765 pic.twitter.com/58wLCJzaCi
— US Attorney S. Ohio (@SDOHnews) August 15, 2017
Law enforcement officials believe the bulk of the extortion money allegedly received by the suspected MS-13 gang members was sent primarily via wire transfers to El Salvador and to recipients in other foreign lands. The funds were used to enhance violent gang activity in both El Salvador and the United States, according to the Justice Department.
[Featured Image by Luis Romero/File/AP Images]