For Immediate Release
September 8, 2005
FBI National Press Office
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
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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