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The U.S. Department of Justice announced an enforcement operation that led to three high-ranking MS-13 gang members being arrested on terrorism and racketeering charges.
“A four-count indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Central Islip, charging 13 of the highest-ranking MS-13 leaders in the world with directing the transnational criminal organization’s criminal activities in the United States, El Salvador, Mexico, and elsewhere, over the past two decades. Specifically, the defendants are charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to provide or conceal material support to terrorists, and narco-terrorism Conspiracy. Four of the defendants are indicted for Alien Smuggling Conspiracy,” the DOJ press release stated.
“On Feb. 22, Vladimir Antonio Arevalo-Chavez, aka Vampiro de Monserrat Criminales (Arevalo-Chavez), Walter Yovani Hernandez-Rivera, aka Baxter de Park View and Bastard de Park View (Hernandez-Rivera), and Marlon Antonio Menjivar-Portillo, aka Rojo de Park View (Menjivar-Portillo), were located by Mexican authorities and expelled from Mexico via the United States. When Arevalo-Chavez, Hernandez-Rivera, and Menjivar-Portillo arrived at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, they were placed under arrest by the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Earlier today, the defendants had their initial appearances in the Southern District of Texas, pending removal to the Eastern District of New York,” the release added.
“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 B. Garland. “The Justice Department will continue to use the full force of our law enforcement authorities to disrupt and dismantle MS-13 and other transnational criminal organizations and hold their leaders accountable.”
“The FBI will continue to vigorously investigate and hold transnational organized groups like MS-13 and their leaders accountable for the continued violent and terrorist criminal activities they orchestrate,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Today’s indictment demonstrates the FBI’s reach and commitment to seeking justice against those individuals who jeopardize American lives and liberty. We will never stop working in coordination with our international partners to protect our respective citizens from MS-13 and other gangs wherever they are.”
“The relentless and heroic efforts of law enforcement here and in Central America are systemically dismantling the MS-13 from the very top to bottom, and 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,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York.
The DOJ press release stated:
As set forth in court filings, the 13 defendants are part of MS-13’s command and control structure, consisting of the Ranfla Nacional, Ranfla en Las Calles, and Ranfla en Los Penales, and play significant leadership roles in the organization’s operations in El Salvador, Mexico, the United States, and throughout the world. In the related case of United States v. Henriquez, et al., a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York previously indicted 14 members of the Ranfla Nacional, who functioned as MS-13’s “Board of Directors.” Formal extradition packages were submitted by the United States for 12 of those defendants, who either are or were in El Salvador custody, and remain pending.
As further alleged, the defendants have engaged in a litany of violent terrorist activities aimed at influencing the government of El Salvador (GOES) policy and obtaining benefits and concessions from the GOES; targeting GOES law enforcement and military officials; employing terrorist tactics such as the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (“IEDs”) and grenades; operating military-style training camps for firearms and explosives; using public displays of violence to intimidate civilian populations; using violence to obtain and control territory; and manipulating the electoral process in El Salvador. Several of these defendants have played prominent roles in MS-13’s past and current negotiations with the GOES.
Further, these defendants authorized and directed violence in the United States, Mexico, and elsewhere as part of a concerted effort to expand MS-13’s influence and territorial control. As the leaders of the MS-13 transnational criminal organization, these defendants were an integral part of the leadership chain responsible for supervising MS-13 cliques in the United States that engaged in extreme violence, including countless murders, attempted murders, assaults, and related offenses.
“As a member of Joint Task Force Vulcan, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements’ Homeland Security Investigations is committed to protecting national security and the communities we serve against transnational criminal organizations,” said Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tae D. Johnson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “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.”