The US government charged 14 alleged ringleaders of MS-13 on drugs and terrorism charges in a crackdown on the notoriously brutal and decades-old crime gang, the Justice Department said on Thursday.
The department said it had charged members of the top tier of MS-13, the so-called Ranfla Nacional, on terrorism-related offences.
MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, traces its roots to Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, and runs violent drug rings across the US, El Salvador, Mexico and beyond.
An indictment, filed in Central Islip, New York, and unsealed on Thursday, detailed conspiracies to support terrorists, commit acts of terrorism and finance terrorism, the department said.
“The indictment announced today is the highest-reaching and most sweeping indictment targeting MS-13 and its command and control structure in US history,” acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen said.
US officials said Borromeo Enrique Henriquez, considered the most powerful member of Ranfla Nacional, and 10 others were in custody in El Salvador and that Washington would “explore options for their extradition”.
The indictment says the ringleaders ran an organised system to recruit and train gang members, including children, in military-style camps, and oversaw gang activities from their prison cells.
Three of the defendants, Hugo Armando Quinteros Mineros, Cesar Humberto Lopez Larios and Fredy Ivan Jandres Parada, are still at large and should be treated as armed and dangerous, officials said.
The US is offering $20,000 in rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the three men.