The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials today announced the results of stepped up efforts by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the department to target and dismantle MS-13 – culminating in the arrest of 267 in the United States and overseas.
“Operation Raging Bull” was led by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with support from federal, state, local and international law enforcement partners, and was conducted in support of the Department of Justice’s renewed prioritization of the violent transnational gang.
“With more than 10,000 members across 40 states, MS-13 is one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the United States today,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to reduce crime and take down transnational criminal organizations, and we will be relentless in our pursuit of these objectives. That’s why I have ordered our drug trafficking task forces to use every law available to arrest, prosecute, convict, and defund MS-13. And we are getting results. So far this year, we have secured convictions against more than 1,200 gang members and worked with our partners in Central America to arrest and charge some 4,000 MS-13 members. I want to thank the Department of Homeland Security, our federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section as well as Treasury, BOP, DOJ’s OCDETF task force members, and all of our state and local law enforcement partners for their hard work. These 267 arrests are the next step toward making this country safer by taking MS-13 off of our streets for good.”
“MS-13 has long been a priority for ICE. However we are now combating the gang with renewed focus and an unprecedented level of cooperation among DHS’s components and our domestic and international partners,” said Thomas Homan, ICE Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director. “ICE has the ability to pursue complex criminal cases using our statutory authorities and to prevent crime by using our administrative arrest authorities to remove gang members from the country. We will not rest until every member, associate, and leader of MS-13 has been held accountable for their crimes, and those in this country illegally have been removed.”
The operation was conducted in two phases, targeting dangerous gang members and their global financial networks. The first phase of the operation which was announced previously, netted 53 arrests in El Salvador at the conclusion of an 18-month investigation in September. The second phase was conducted across the United States from Oct. 8 to Nov. 11, and concluded with 214 MS-13 arrests nationwide.
HSI received significant operational support, including intelligence sharing and collaboration, from ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Treasury, U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons (BOP), as well as state, local, federal, and international law enforcement partners. The Organized Crime and Gang Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, with funding from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, along with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Districts of Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, Northern District of California, Southern District of Iowa and Southern District of Texas, and are prosecuting the cases.
"Securing the homeland is a critical piece of the USCIS mission,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. “We are committed to supporting and providing intelligence to our law enforcement colleagues on public safety initiatives like Operation Raging Bull. We will bring all of our agency’s resources to bear in helping protect the American public from violent crime, and in the pursuit of those who seek to endanger the security of our nation.”
"This joint effort is not new. It is something we all do as law enforcement,” said Border Patrol Deputy Chief Scott Luck. “I look forward to continue working with my partners here at Headquarters as well as the field to address not just this threat but all threats.”
“The Bureau of Prisons is proud to have supported our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners in this successful effort to enhance public safety,” said Assistant Director Frank Lara for the Federal Bureau of Prisons Correctional Programs. “The Bureau of Prisons will continue to work collaboratively to combat the threat violent gangs pose inside prisons and in the community.”
Of the total 214 arrests made in the United States, 93 were arrested on federal and/or state criminal charges including murder, aggravated robbery, Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) offenses, Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) offenses, narcotics trafficking, narcotics possession, firearms offenses, domestic violence, assault, forgery, DUI and illegal entry/reentry. The remaining 121 were arrested on administrative immigration violations.
Sixteen of the 214 arrested were U.S. citizens and 198 were foreign nationals, of which only five had legal status to be in the United States. Foreign nationals arrested were from El Salvador (135), Honduras (29), Mexico (17), Guatemala (12), Ecuador (4) and Costa Rica (1).
Sixty-four individuals had illegally crossed the border as unaccompanied alien children; most are now adults.
Examples of the federal prosecutions during this operation include:
In Baltimore, Maryland, the arrest and indictment of four MS-13 members on charges that include violent crimes in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering;
In Greenbelt, Maryland, the arrest and indictment of eight MS-13 members on charges that include conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by extortion; and MS-13 members and associates were arrested in East Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts; Falfurrias, Hidalgo and Laredo, Texas; Nogales, Tucson and Yuma, Arizona; Council Bluffs, Iowa; Annapolis, Baltimore, Clinton, Beltsville, Upper Marlboro, Centreville and Jessup, Maryland; and San Jose, California and charged with various federal offenses including illegal alien in possession of a firearm and illegal re-entry after deportation.
Following this operation, ICE has added six MS-13 fugitives to its list of “most wanted” individuals, including one fugitive wanted for homicide in Montgomery County, Texas, and five others wanted for their involvement in the homicide and attempted homicides of El Salvadoran police officers. All are suspected of being somewhere in the U.S.
Individuals are confirmed as gang members if they admit membership in a gang; have been convicted of violating Title 18 USC 521 or any other federal or state law criminalizing or imposing civil consequences for gang-related activity; or if they meet certain other criteria such as having tattoos identifying a specific gang or being identified as a gang member by a reliable source.
Gang associates are individuals who exhibit gang member criteria but who are not formally initiated into the gang. Law enforcement officers encountering these individuals will determine whether indications of gang association are present by referring to the gang membership criteria.
Note: I wrote a piece on MS-13 for Counterterrorism magazine, which will appear in the upcoming issue. I’ll post the piece here when it comes out.