Members of notorious United States gang nabbed in sweeping probe

Trump's strong words for MS-13

Gang members were charged with murder and other crimes.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and others said the suspects' immigration status was of little effect, given the nature of the criminal charges. This week, authorities used the charges to target the suspected gang members for allegedly trading drugs and weapons across Southern California. Beck recalled that he had arrested his first MS-13 member more than 35 years ago.

As 12 News has reported, gang activity associated with the Mexican Mafia is present in Arizona, though ties to MS-13 are less prevalent. Twenty-one members and associates of MS-13 were arrested in the early morning hours as hundreds of federal and local law enforcement officers served arrest and search warrants.

Roughly 1,000 officers from agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Los Angeles Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement participated in the 40 raids that kicked off just before 4 a.m., the Los Angeles Times reported. Two other MS-13 members - Samuel Alexander Paredes Rivas, 39, also known as "Blacky", and Joffri Molina, 24, also known as "Espia" - are also charged with VICAR murder.

Among the 21 members arrested on Wednesday, three were accused of murder and could face the death penalty.

In the early Wednesday morning operation, authorities arrested 44 gang members who will face federal charges, officials said.

MS-13 began in Los Angeles in the 1980s, when El Salvadorians flooded into the United States as their country was in the midst of a civil war. The murders were solved as a result of the Task Force investigation and its partnership with Los Angeles police homicide detectives.

At the center of the takedown was a 41-count racketeering indictment (PDF) that charges 34 members and associates of MS-13.

"This case has targeted the leadership and most violent actors of the MS-13 street gang in Los Angeles, as well as MS-13's links to the Mexican Mafia", Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, said in a statement.

More than half of the 44 arrested are undocumented, acting US Attorney Sandra Brown said.

Trump signed an executive order in February specifically directing federal law enforcement to focus resources on combating street gangs and transnational criminal organizations. But MS-13 members have been known to live in storefronts and have been suspected of using them as a cover for drug activity, prostitution and human trafficking. "They're a transnational worldwide gang". Authorities claim the gang as among the largest criminal organizations in the US. The United States contributed to the El Salvador conflict by providing large amounts of military aid to the government during the Carter and Reagan administrations.

The suspects face a wide range of charges, including federal racketeering and narcotics conspiracy. "I will add that numerous witnesses that allowed us to do this by their statements also have immigration issues". It now boasts almost 30,000 members worldwide, with more than 10,000 of them residing in the United States.

President Trump vowed to eradicate the notorious MS-13 gang "very soon" during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Monday to honor fallen police officers.

Last month, Trump tweeted MS-13 was allowed to thrive due to the immigration policies of the Obama administration, even though the gang has been in the United States for decades.

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