More than 100 federal agents and local police descended on an Elizabeth, N.J., neighborhood yesterday and charged 13 men they said belong to a burgeoning Latino street gang that uses violence and drug trafficking to control its communities. The Newark Star-Ledger reports the sweep ended an eight-month investigation that included trash searches, video surveillance and hundreds of hours of secret cell-phone taps.
It marked one of the first criminal cases against a clique of Mara Salavatrucha, or MS-13, an exploding gang with Salvadoran roots whose violence and tactics have made it a rival to the Latin Kings and the Bloods. The suspects, all but one of whom are illegal immigrants from Colombia, El Salvador or Honduras, were charged with selling drugs and doctored or stolen immigration papers. MS-13 was formed two decades ago by Salvadorans who had relocated to Los Angeles after a civil war in their homeland. The gang has been most active on the West Coast and in Northern Virginia, but loosely affiliated cliques have emerged in New Jersey and other states.