Nineteen suspected members of the violent Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) street gang were charged yesterday in the Washington, D.C., area, in an unusual federal indictment alleging that the gang’s activities amounted to a criminal racketeering enterprise, the Washington Post reports. Nine people were arrested in predawn raids.
MS-13 is accsed of conspiring to intimidate its communities and members of the organization through murders, assaults, and kidnappings. The gang is traditionally made up of immigrants from El Salvador. It has gained national notoriety because of its brutality. The indictment and supporting documents portray MS-13’s reach as being greater than recent law enforcement assessments. They estimate its U.S. membership at about 10,000 and highlight the group’s ability to coordinate activities with associates in more than 30 states. Earlier this year, MS-13 was not ranked as the leading gang threat in much of the nation in the Justice Department’s 2005 National Gang Threat Assessment.