Federal authorities named Mara Salvatrucha MS-13, the ruthless Latin American gang born three decades ago in of Los Angeles, as a “transnational criminal organization,” becoming the first street gang to join the list, the Los Angeles Times reports. The designation gives the U.S. Treasury Department the power to freeze financial assets from the gang or its members and prohibits financial institutions from engaging in transactions with members of the group.
The move is designed to reduce the flow of gang money in the U.S. and across the border. Authorities believe money generated by MS-13 groups in the U.S. is funneled back to the group’s leadership in El Salvador. The designation is likely to make it more difficult for gang members to use banks and wire transfers to move profits. Law enforcement officials hope the federal action can significantly dent the gang’s power. Among other organizations to get the designation are Japan’s Yakuza organized crime syndicate and Mexico’s Zetas, whose leader, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed by Mexican Marines on Sunday. An armed gang later stole his body from a funeral parlor.