LOS ANGELES – Nine new defendants and a series of previously uncharged murders are included in a federal grand jury indictment unsealed today that significantly expands a wide-ranging racketeering indictment targeting an arm of the MS-13 transnational street gang.
The 18-count Third Superseding Indictment, which was unsealed following the arrests of four defendants this week, alleges that members and associates of MS-13 murdered 11 people, five of whom were hacked to death with machetes or knives in the Angeles National Forest. The indictment, which was filed on August 5, adds nine defendants to the previous version of the indictment and nearly doubles the number of charged murders.
Mara Salvatrucha was formed in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, and the street gang is now comprised of tens of thousands of individuals in at least 10 states and several Central American countries, notably El Salvador. In the mid-1990s, Mara Salvatrucha became associated with the Mexican Mafia and added the number 13 to its name (“M” is the 13th letter of the alphabet). To become a new member of a Mexican Mafia-affiliated gang, an individual underwent a 13-second beating by other members of the gang.
This case focuses on MS-13 Los Angeles’ Fulton clique, a particularly violent subset of MS-13 that operates in the San Fernando Valley and has been bolstered by an influx of young immigrants from Central America.
“In 2016, the Fulton clique decided to break from MS-13’s traditional program in Los Angeles in favor of a traditional Salvadoran Mara Salvatrucha program,” according to the new indictment. “The key difference between MS-13’s traditional Los Angeles program and MS-13’s Salvadoran program was that the Salvadoran program required a prospective member to have committed at least one homicide before becoming a homeboy,” or full-fledged member.
In addition to murders previously charged in this case – including one in which the victim was dismembered – the new indictment charges the January 2019 murder of a man who was fatally shot in a remote area near Santa Clarita and whose remains were not recovered until the Tick Fire burned the area 10 months later.
Of the 11 murders alleged in the indictment, five victims allegedly were killed with machetes or knives, while six allegedly were shot to death. All 11 murders are alleged to have been committed “for the purpose of gaining entry to and maintaining and increasing position in MS-13 Los Angeles.”
The 111-page Third Superseding Indictment names 31 defendants, 21 of whom are charged with conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The RICO charge alleges nearly 300 “overt acts,” including acts involving murder, drug trafficking and extortion.
The new indictment was unsealed just before scheduled arraignments for three new defendants who were taken into custody in the Los Angeles area. The fourth new defendant was arrested in Colorado. Two new defendants were already in federal custody, and three new defendants were already in state custody.
The RICO case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joanna Curtis, Chief of the Violent and Organized Crime Section, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Eric W. Siddall, a Deputy District Attorney for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.