Feds arrest more than a dozen MS-13 gang members

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The streets of two Midwestern states are a little bit safer since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that more than a dozen members of the violent MS-13 gang were apprehended during early morning raids on Wednesday in Central Ohio and Indiana, according to the Department of Justice.

MS-13, formally La Mara Salvatrucha, is a multi-national criminal organization composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The organization’s leadership is based in El Salvador, where many of the gang’s high-ranking members are imprisoned.

Federal prosecutors said a grand jury charged ten gang members of the “Columbus Clique” with conspiracy to commit extortion and money laundering, as well as the use of firearms during a violent crime, in an indictment returned in late July.

The indictment accuses the ten gang members of having “conspired to commit extortion through the use of threatened or actual force, violence or fear to intimidate their victims into paying money to the defendants and their co-conspirators.” Prosecutors said money was then sent, “usually by wire transfer and often through intermediaries,” to MS-13 members and associates in El Salvador and elsewhere to promote the group’s criminal activities.

Besides the 10 members charged in the federal indictment, federal officials said an additional five people were arrested and charged with federal immigration offenses.

“With more than 10,000 members across 40 states, MS-13 is one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the United States today,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “MS-13 members have killed children and pregnant women, extorted immigrant-owned businesses, and trafficked underage girls to sell them for sex. President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to reduce crime and take down transnational criminal organizations, and we will be relentless in our pursuit of these objectives. Today’s charges are our next step toward making this country safer by taking MS-13 off of our streets for good.”

Two of the 15 charged by the grand jury, Jose Manuel Romero-Parada and Nelson Alexander Flores, are still at large.

Federal officials say the gang has more than 10,000 members and associates operating in at least 40 states, including Ohio.

This news comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to San Salvador at the end of July to congratulate Attorney General Douglas Menéndez on his announcement that Salvadoran prosecutors arrested hundreds of MS-13 gang members in El Salvador.

On Feb. 9, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Order on Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking to dismantle and eradicate transnational gangs threatening the safety of our communities. Pursuant to that order, Attorney General Sessions has made dismantling transnational gangs like MS-13 a priority. Today’s announcement comes as a result of the meeting the attorneys general held in March of this year in Washington, D.C.

“I think that there are probably many people in Columbus who didn’t know that MS-13 was here before yesterday, but for those people and communities who were being extorted by its members, it was a very big problem,” Benjamin Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said Wednesday on “Fox & Friends.”

Glassman said the investigation is focusing on other members of the clique and crimes they may have committed since 2010. He believes the group may have been in Ohio “going back perhaps even a decade prior to that.”

The arrests in Ohio focused on a mobile home park in North Columbus, WSYX/WTTE reported.

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