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Thursday, July 16, 2020
First MS-13 member indicted on terrorism-related charges by Justice Department
For the first time, the Justice Department is bringing terrorism-related charges against an MS-13 gang leader, and in a separate case the government said it would seek the death penalty against another MS-13 member. In total, the department unveiled new charges against 22 members of the notorious criminal gang that Attorney General Bill Barr has called "a death cult."
Nearly a year after the creation of Joint Task Force Vulcan, an initiative aimed specifically at taking down MS-13, Barr announced Wednesday that law enforcement has helped dismantle the leadership of the transnational gang in the U.S. and "significantly degraded" MS-13's capabilities.
"MS-13 is somewhat unique in this sense: they have the street savagery that you would see in a gang is not driven by commercial interests the way, for example, the mafia traditionally was," Barr explained in the Oval Office on Wednesday. "It's about honor of being the most savage, bloodthirsty person you can be and building up a reputation as a killer."
MS-13, or "Mara Salvatrucha," is one of the largest gangs in the world, a menace in several countries that is often invoked by President Trump to justify his hardline immigration policies. Its violent grip in Central America is one of the forces driving thousands of migrants to flee for the U.S.
President Trump called MS-13, "probably the meanest, worst gang in the world" and "an evil group of people. They're sick, and deranged."
Among those charged is Armando Eliu Melgar Diaz, also known as "Blue," who is the first MS-13 member to be indicted on terrorism charges. Prosecutors allege that Melgar Diaz was the leader of MS-13 East Coast operations and as such oversaw the activities of approximately 20 MS-13 factions in the U.S., including in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
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