Law enforcement officials say the MS-13 street gang has wreaked violent havoc in parts of suburban areas around Washington, D.C., committing murders, assaults, rapes, and robberies as part of a coldly calculated criminal conspiracy. The Washington Post says that starting this week in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., federal prosecutors will get the chance to prove it. Opening statements are scheduled to begin tomorrow as the first two alleged members of MS-13 charged with racketeering in Maryland go on trial.
Twenty-two alleged members were indicted on the federal racketeering charges, and three have pleaded guilty to related charges. Prosecutors have filed papers saying they are seeking the death penalty against nine of the remaining 19 defendants. Officials allege that MS-13 operates in 10 states and Washington, D.C., as well as in El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico and has 10,000 members. To obtain convictions under the federal RICO law — initially aimed at Mafia groups — prosecutors must show that the crimes committed by MS-13 members were part of an ongoing criminal enterprise, rather than isolated, unrelated acts.