Suspected MS-13 gang members were rounded up Wednesday in Los Angeles County during a pre-dawn raid by federal and local authorities as part of a two-year racketeering investigation.
Some 21 people were arrested in connection with the sweep, which was done by the FBI, Los Angeles Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Los Angeles Times reported.
A statement from the U.S. attorney's office for Central California said a racketeering indictment charged three MS-13 members for murders they committed in connection with the gang's activities. These murders were solved as a result of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Gangs investigation and its partnership with the Los Angeles Police Olympic Division homicide detectives.
The statement said that Carlos Alfredo Cardoza Lopez, also known as "Little Boy," 23, faces a violent crime in aid of racketeering (VICAR) murder charge for allegedly fatally shooting a bystander who was confronted on Aug. 15, 2015, inside the gang-controlled Little San Salvador Nightclub and Restaurant.
Two other alleged MS-13 members – Samuel Alexander Paredes Rivas, also known as "Blacky," 39, and Joffri Molina, also known as "Espia," 24 – were also charged with VICAR murder. Rivas was accused of murdering a man on Aug. 30, 2015, at a strip mall in Pacoima while Molina was accused of murdering a man on Sept. 27, 2015 on a street in North Hollywood, the statement noted.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told the Los Angeles Times that MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, targets immigrants without legal status.
"They extort them. They rob them. They rape them," Beck told the Times. "They murder them. Without their cooperation as witnesses, none of this would be possible."
The Times said the lead defendant in the indictment, Jose Balmore Romero, known as "Porky," 43, has been in custody since 2015, charged with ordering a gang-related murder. Romero called the shots for the gang in Los Angeles in 2013 and 2014 and oversaw its drug-trafficking act and money extortion activities, according to the newspaper.
"This gang uses coercion and intimidation while inflicting horrific violence in the neighborhoods where they operate," ATF Los Angeles field division special agent in charge Eric Harden said in the U.S. attorney's office statement. "Today is a great win for justice and a heavy message to the community. Law enforcement will combine their resources and all our areas of expertise to cripple these organizations. We will win, they will lose."
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have both specifically talked about MS-13 in recent weeks for their gang activity, CNN noted. Sessions blamed the Obama administration for the gang's growth since many involved are undocumented.
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