The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) bagged the senior MS-13 leader for the Northeast U.S. along with 11 other high-ranking members of the gang in a Thursday crackdown operation, the New York Post reported.
The 17 defendants — five of whom are not MS-13 members — are facing charges including second-degree murder, drug trafficking, and conspiracy. They face up to 25 years in prison if convicted, the Post reported Thursday. The unnamed Long Island-based leader operated two cells, code-named “Hollywood” and “Sailors.” He reported and transferred proceeds directly to MS-13 heads in El Salvador, according to the DEA.
“It started as a small-scale drug investigation on Long Island, a DEA investigation which is still growing, and as it went along and we brought other agencies on, we saw a violent threat that pushed us to get even more agencies involved and eventually apprehend this regional leader of MS-13,” DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt said in a statement. “Not only did we arrest the highest-level Mara Salvatrucha leader in the Northeast who reports to MS-13 in El Salvador, but we sent a message that we will continue to investigate their violent crimes and bring justice to their victims.”
The crackdown is the most recent operation against MS-13 since President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have made it a top priority to bring down the cartel. Sessions has heavily criticized sanctuary cities as well, claiming they are sanctuaries for crime.
The Justice Department has also partnered with several South American countries to bring down the gang. The DOJ took part in an international operation in October alongside El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that charged 3,800 gang members.
“MS-13 is one of the most violent and ruthless gangs in America today, endangering communities in more than 40 states. But under President Trump’s strong leadership, the Department of Justice is taking them off our streets,” Sessions said at the time. “MS-13 coordinates across our borders to kill, rape, and traffic drugs and underage girls; we’ve got to coordinate across our borders to stop them.”
“That’s exactly what our courageous and professional DOJ agents and attorneys are doing,” he added. “We will continue to maintain this steadfast policy and dismantle this gang.”
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