Some good news for a change. A special task force launched by President Donald Trump to gut the nation’s deadliest street gang has taken down key leaders in less than a year and for the first time charged a gang banger with terrorism-related offenses.
The feared street gang of mostly Central American illegal immigrants, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), has spread throughout the U.S. and is renowned for drug distribution, murder, rape, robbery, home invasions, kidnappings, vandalism and other violent crimes. The Justice Department’s National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) says criminal street gangs like MS-13 are responsible for the majority of violent crimes in the U.S. and are the primary distributors of most illicit drugs.
Thanks to Barack Obama’s open border policies, MS-13 was energized with new recruits provided by a steady flow of illegal immigrant minors. When the Obama administration started welcoming a barrage of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) in 2014, Homeland Security sources told Judicial Watch that the nation’s most violent street gangs—including MS-13 and the 18th Street gang—were actively recruiting new members at U.S. shelters housing the minors.
The Texas Department of Public Safety subsequently confirmed that the MS-13 is a top tier gang thanks to the influx of illegal alien gang members that crossed into the state under Obama’s disastrous program, which saw over 60,000 illegal immigrants—many with criminal histories—storm into the U.S. in a matter of months. Tens of thousands more have entered since then.
President Trump vowed to crush the famously savage MS-13 and shortly after taking office issued an Executive Order directing several agencies, including the departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security, to coordinate an effort to restore safety for the American people by extinguishing transitional criminal organizations such as MS-13.
The order states that the criminal groups have spread throughout the nation, threatening the safety of the United States and its citizens. “These organizations derive revenue through widespread illegal conduct, including acts of violence and abuse that exhibit a wanton disregard for human life,” the order says. “They, for example, have been known to commit brutal murders, rapes, and other barbaric acts. These groups are drivers of crime, corruption, violence, and misery.” The president gives federal agencies 120 days to report progress in combating the criminal organizations as well as recommended actions for dismantling them.
In August 2019 Attorney General William Barr launched an initiative known as Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV) to address MS-13 with a coordinated force of federal law enforcement agencies and the Department of Justice (DOJ). JTFV has increased collaboration with foreign law enforcement partners, including in El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala; designated priority MS-13 programs, cliques and leaders, who have the most impact on the U.S., for targeted prosecutions, and; coordinated significant MS-13 indictments in U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country, such as New York, Virginia and Nevada. Less than a year after its formation, the task force has recorded big successes.
This week the DOJ announced a number of significant JTFV cases, including for the first time an MS-13 member being charged with terrorism-related offenses, the take down of the MS-13 Hollywood leadership and the Attorney General’s decision to seek the death penalty against an MS-13 operative. JTFV Director John Durham calls it the result of tremendous teamwork between prosecutors and law enforcement officers across the United States and Central America.
The cases announced this week include an indictment against a high-ranking MS-13 operative, Melgar Diaz, in Virginia. Diaz is charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiring to kill or maim persons overseas, conspiring to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, conspiring to finance terrorism, and; conspiring to engage in narco-terrorism, in addition to racketeering conspiracy and drug trafficking. In another case eight MS-13 members were indicted in New York for committing six murders, two attempted murders, kidnapping, narcotics felonies and related firearms offenses. In Nevada 13 MS-13 gang bangers, including leaders of the “Hollywood Locos” clique and “Los Angeles Program” were charged with multiple counts of narcotics distribution and weapons crimes.
The task force is also responsible for the indictment in New York of Alexi Saenz, an MS-13 leader accused of committing seven murders, including two high school students with a machete and baseball bat. “MS-13 is a violent transnational criminal organization, whose criminal activities respect no boundaries,” said Durham, the JTFV director. “The only way to defeat MS-13 is by targeting the organization as a whole, focusing on the leadership structure, and deploying a whole-of-government approach against a common enemy.”