Federal prosecutors charged 14 allegedly high-ranking members of the violent transnational gang MS-13 with conspiracy and terrorism in what authorities described as the Justice Department’s most sweeping indictment targeting the organization’s leadership, reports the Wall Street Journal. The indictment, unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, charges members of the Ranfla Nacional, which authorities said operated as MS-13’s “Board of Directors,” guiding its global criminal activity for almost two decades. Eleven defendants are in custody in El Salvador, while the U.S. seeks their extradition. Three remain at large.
The indictment charges the men with conspiracy to provide and conceal material support and resources to terrorists; conspiracy to commit transnational acts of terrorism; conspiracy to finance terrorism; and narco-terrorism conspiracy. Combating MS-13, which has established “cliques” throughout the U.S., has been a priority of the Justice Department under President Donald Trump. MS-13 was established in the 1980s in southern California by Central American immigrants, many of whom had fled civil wars in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the indictment said. MS-13 has been blamed for the crisis of violent crime in Latin America. The indictment in Brooklyn accuses the Ranfla Nacional of directing MS-13’s U.S. operations, leading the gang’s expansion into Mexico and exercising control over the El Salvador government through violence and intimidation.