Immigration officials arrested hundreds of members of the notorious MS-13 gang in a massive sweep across the nation.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said Friday that 158 members or associates of MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, which is based in El Salvador were arrested and charged. Eighty-four non-gang members were arrested on criminal charges, and 14 people were arrested due to immigration violations.
ICE said that in all, there were 263 gang members and associates from 43 different gangs in 71 cities who were arrested.
The sting–called “Project Razor’s Edge”–was carried out between July 15 to Aug. 9 in order to “combat the national security and public safety threats posed by MS-13 gang members and associates and to ultimately identify, target, arrest, and prosecute MS-13 gang members and associates as well as their rival gangs.”
Officials have described MS-13 as one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the world.
The gang was started by Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s, but the gang’s operations moved back to El Salvador, making it especially difficult to target. Members of MS-13 have spread across the U.S., and members are mainly of South and Central American descent.
“Operations like these are especially rewarding for the men and women of HSI as they know firsthand that they’re playing a critical role in community safety,” said HSI Executive Associate Director James Dinkins in a statement.
ICE said that of those who were arrested, the charges against them include “first degree murder, aggravated assault, assault, firearms possession, aggravated robbery, armed robbery, attempted armed robbery, obstruction of criminal investigations, interference with commerce by threats or violence, illegal re-entry of a removed alien, sexual assault, indecent contact with a minor and kidnapping.”
Special agents recovered 122.8 grams of cocaine, 771.5 grams of heroin, 9.95 kilos of marijuana, 28 firearms, and more than $22,000 in cash.
Those who were arrested came from Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S, and Antigua and Barbuda, ICE said.