Authorities hope sanctions will stop the ability for the group to launder money
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/31/2012 -- A machetes street gang in Central America became the first gang to be noted and labeled a transnational criminal organization.
The Treasury department had designated MS-13, formerly known as Mara Salvatrucha, as a transnational criminal organization in order to freeze the gang out of gaining any access to the U.S. financial system and seize potentially millions from the criminal profits that came by way of drug and human smuggling within the United States.
Formed by immigrants fleeing the El Salvadoran civil war in the 1980s, the founders of MS-13 took tactics utilized from the brutal conflict in their home country and applied them to the streets of Los Angeles. The gang built a reputation among other gangs and police safety officials for being one of the most ruthless and sophisticated organizations in the country.
With over 10,000 members in 46 U.S. states, the gang expanded beyond its initial kidnaping and murder, to more sophisticated tactics such as drug smuggling and human trafficking.
Shatarsky, an MS-13 expert assigned to the ICE, stated the group established itself with great pace before they began to spread across the country. Their ability to utilize severe and dehumanizing violence put both authorities and other gangs on notice.
The gang is well established within Southern California, Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia. In fact, almost any area that has a substantial Salvadoran population is likely to have MS-13-affiliated crime.
Shatarsky stated that any place the gang operates, its members pretty on the Salvador community itself, targeting residents and those they can extort from their own community.
The gang still thrives outside of the U.S. back in Central America, Mexico, and Europe.
"They saw a level of violence that hadn't been seen before," Shatarksy said, adding that as the gang as expanded it has also become more sophisticated than many of its rivals.
By labeling MS-13 an International criminal organization, the group is subject to sanctions by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Authorities hope the effort will stymie the group’s funnel of funds that come through legitimate businesses.
ICE Director John Morton described the labeling of the gang as a “powerful weapon.” Saying, “This designation allows us to strike at the financial heart of MS 13.”
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