A grand jury indicted 26 suspected members of the notoriously violent MS-13 gang yesterday in an effort to shut down a culture of intimidation operating in 42 states and five countries, reports the Charlotte Observer. MS-13 members have been linked to four homicides, drug trafficking, and extortion in the Carolinas. “Today’s indictment is merely the latest sign of the gang’s reach,” said U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The Salvadoran gang has more than 10,000 members.
Members worked to protect power, territory, and profits by extorting drug dealers and intimidating victims and community members with threats of violence, the indictment said. MS-13 is an abbreviation deriving from the word “Mara,” which means gang in El Salvador. Salvatrucha is a combination of “Salva,” an abbreviation for Salvadoran and “trucha,” a slang term for “fear us.” Members are beaten during an initiation. They also are required to commit violence to maintain membership, including acts against rival gangs. Assaults, robberies and murder are rewarded with respect and leadership positions, according to the indictment. Many of the gang’s leaders – often called “shot callers” or “voices” – are in prison in El Salvador, where members have transferred money. “They are smart in how they do business,” said a Charlotte police captain.