A federal grand jury in Nashville, Tennessee, has returned a 60-count indictment charging nine members of La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) with a racketeering conspiracy spanning more than seven years.
According to court documents and statements made in court, MS-13 is a national and transnational gang composed largely of individuals of Salvadoran or Central American descent.
The purpose of the MS-13 enterprise includes preserving and protecting the power, territory, reputation, and profits of the enterprise through the use of intimidation and violence, including murder and promoting the enterprise through acts of murder, robbery, drug trafficking, and other criminal activities.
Branches or “cliques” of MS-13 operate throughout the United States.
The indictment charges members of one such clique operating in Nashville, specifically the Thompson Place Locos Salvatrucha clique, with committing a wide range of offenses, including the murder of seven individuals, the attempted murder of an additional five individuals, drug distribution, robberies, kidnappings, and assaults.
More specifically, the indictment charges the following acts of violence occurring over an approximately 17-month period:
|April 6, 2016||J.A. murdered|
|July 31, 2016||L.R. murdered, during the gang’s attempt to murder R.R.|
|Jan. 18, 2017||Attempted murder of R.V.|
|Feb. 18, 2017||Attempted murder of H.V., L.A., and H.S.|
|Feb. 25, 2017||Attempted murder of H.S.|
|May 21, 2017||A.G. murdered|
|May 27, 2017||J.F. murdered; and attempted murder of L.R.L.|
|June 1, 2017||Assault of deputized federal officer|
|June 17, 2017||Kidnapping and assault of C.R.|
|July 25, 2017||Kidnapping and assault of X.A. to prevent him/her from cooperating with law enforcement|
|Sept. 24, 2017||H.Z. and Y.H. murdered|
|Sept. 24, 2017||A.L. murdered; gang members then burned a car with A.L.’s body in the trunk|
As alleged in the indictment, MS-13 gang members often target individuals for violence based on the gang’s belief that an individual is a rival gang member or a potential witness to crimes committed by the MS-13 members.
MS-13 members are required to follow various rules, chief among them being that cooperation with law enforcement is strictly prohibited, and it is well understood within the gang that anyone who assists the authorities will be punished with death; that members are required to confront, fight and/or kill rival gang members when possible; and that members are required to retaliate quickly and viciously against anyone who disrespects or threatens the gang’s authority, power, reputation or control of a neighborhood.
Participation in such violent acts by a member increases the respect accorded to that member, results in that member maintaining or increasing their position in the gang, and could result in a promotion to a leadership position.
The defendants are charged with RICO conspiracy, murder and other violent crimes in aid of racketeering, witness tampering, causing death through the use of a firearm, using a firearm during a crime of violence, possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, and violations of the Controlled Substances Act, among other crimes.
In a letter to acting Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Troy Miller, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson asked for data “on apprehensions of criminals, including confirmed gang members, at the southern border,” and how many had prior convictions, entered the U.S. as unaccompanied children or tried to enter in a large migrants group, which Border Patrol chiefs have said gang members often try, Fox News reported.
Johnson said the arrests of immigrants and potential gang members “underscore the urgency needed to address the border crisis” and said the Biden administration has failed “to enact policies to address the crisis at the border.”
Last July, former President Donald Trump and former Attorney General William Barr announced cases in the existing Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV), which was launched in August 2019 with the goal of disrupting, dismantling and eventually destroying MS-13. The cases included an MS-13 member charged with terrorism-related offenses for the first time, a “coordinated multi-district takedown of the leadership” of the MS-13 clique in Hollywood and Barr’s decision to seek the death penalty against an MS-13 defendant.
The statutory penalties for the charged offenses range from a statutory maximum of 10 years to life imprisonment. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
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