Three high-ranking chiefs in a deadly transnational gang have been indicted in New York in a narco-terrorism and racketeering conspiracy that spanned the U.S., El Salvador and Mexico over two decades, officials said.
Unsealed this week in a New York federal court, the indictment against the members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) was announced as part of Joint Task Force Vulcan, comprising U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the FBI. The task force was set up in 2019 to target MS-13’s most influential cliques and leaders in the U.S., El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. It has taken an unconventional tactic by using national security charges to prosecute gang leaders.
“With our broad legal authorities and ability to investigate a wide spectrum of crimes, our HSI special agents will continue to maximize global efforts that detect, deter, disrupt, and dismantle criminal syndicates like MS-13 and those who propagate associated illicit operations,” said ICE’s Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tae D. Johnson.
On Feb. 22, Mexican authorities located Vladimir Antonio Arevalo-Chavez, aka Vampiro de Monserrat Criminales, Walter Yovani Hernandez-Rivera, aka Baxter de Park View and Bastard de Park View, and Marlon Antonio Menjivar-Portillo, aka Rojo de Park View.
The suspects appeared in a courtroom in Texas this week before they are expected to be sent to New York. Four others are being sought in the case.
“Today’s action makes clear that there is no hiding place anywhere in the world for the leaders of violent gangs that terrorize American communities,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement.
Authorities said they are working to dismantle MS-13 from top to bottom and hold its leaders accountable for violence in New York and across the country, said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York.
Six others in the case are believed to be in custody in El Salvador. Officials are working on extraditing them to the U.S.
Fourteen others, members of MS-13’s “Board of Directors,” have also been indicted in New York. Twelve of them are in El Salvador, either in custody or out, officials said.
Officials say they’ve targeted police and military officials, have tried to influence El Salvador government policy and manipulated elections. They’ve used public displays of violence to intimidate civilians and get and control territory, authorities said. They’ve used improvised explosive devices and grenades and run military-style training camps for firearms and explosives, the DOJ said.
They supervised MS-13 cliques responsible for extreme violence, including murders, attempted murders, and assaults in the U.S.
Authorities have prosecuted hundreds of MS-13 leaders, members and associates in more than 65 murders in the Eastern District of New York since 2009, officials said.
Several suspects coordinated MS-13’s expansion into Mexico after pressure on the gang from law enforcement in the U.S. and El Salvador.
Working with Mexican cartels, they smuggled narcotics, weapons and immigrants. They took part in extortions, kidnappings and weapons trafficking. They murdered migrants bound for the U.S. Some of the people killed were from the rival 18th Street gang and even their members in El Salvador who were trying to get out without permission, officials said.
Drug trafficking was vital to MS-13’s money-making operation, especially in Mexico. The suspects used MS-13’s extensive membership base in the U.S. to generate financial support for MS-13’s terrorist activities in El Salvador, the DOJ said.
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York said authorities here and in Central America are dismantling the gang from top to bottom.
“We will not stop until this transnational gang, and its leaders are held accountable for the extreme violence they have inflicted on our district, the United States and the countries where this scourge is based,” he said.
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