Press Release

For Immediate Release
September 8, 2005

Washington D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691

FBI ANNOUNCES COORDINATED LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTION AGAINST GANGS

Washington, D.C. - The FBI today announced a coordinated, five-nation law enforcement effort between local, state, federal, and international agencies to act against the growing violence from gang activity, particularly MS-13, in the United States, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. All in all, today's actions included the participation of more than 6,400 police officers, federal agents, or other officials, operating in 13 states and five countries.

Today's actions resulted in a series of arrests, searches, detentions and other law enforcement actions. The actions are part of a series of efforts undertaken in cooperation with state, local, federal and foreign agencies and coordinated by the FBI's MS-13 National Gang Task Force (MS-13 NGTF). The task force was established last year to help coordinate and focus law enforcement efforts to take action against the gang known as Mara Salvatrucha-13, most commonly known as MS-13, and similar such gangs. An MS-13 presence has been identified in 33 states, the District of Columbia, Mexico and a number of nations in Central America. As a vital part of today's effort, law enforcement authorities in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico conducted separate but coordinated law enforcement efforts against MS-13 in their respective countries. "The gangs are organizing internationally," said FBI Assistant Director Swecker. "And so are we."

The estimated membership of MS-13 is over 10,000 in the United States with the largest concentration in Los Angeles, Northern Virginia, Maryland, and New York.

MS-13 membership in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador is estimated by those governments to be as many as 50,000. To counter this epidemic, in 2004 the Director of the FBI established the MS-13 NGTF to coordinate and support local, state, and federal investigations and prosecutions regarding the dramatic escalation of gang violence and threats to America's communities by MS-13. In addition to multiple state and local police departments and agencies, the federal agencies participating in, or coordinating investigations with, the MS-13 NGTF include the Bureau of Prisons; the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) at the Department of Homeland Security; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive (ATF); the U.S. Marshals Service; the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service (DSS); and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The increased focus and coordination at all levels of government has resulted in the successful prosecution of MS-13 members in New York on Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) charges, the recent murder convictions of two MS-13 members for the murder of federal witness Brenda Paz, the recent Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) conviction of northern Virginia for murder, recent indictments on RICO and other criminal charges in Maryland of MS-13 members based on ATF investigations, as well as other federal prosecutors.

Swecker described today's operations as "historic" and "unprecedented in scope." "By bringing together resources from the local, state, federal and international law enforcement community," he said "all levels of U.S. law enforcement and our international partners are working together and sharing information. This represents but a beginning, another step in an ongoing national and international effort to go on offense, and to strike back against gang violence."

The ultimate goal of the task force, Swecker added, is "to dismantle MS-13 and disrupt the threat it poses to our domestic and national security." But he cautioned that today's actions "do not represent the culmination of any particular investigation into any particular gang, and is only one part of an ongoing battle." The difference now, he said, is that the U.S. and its partners in the region are working together as never before to take steps that will "send a message to MS-13 and other like gangs that their criminal enterprise and the violence they perpetrate will not be tolerated."

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