Mara Salvatrucha, the Los Angeles-based street gang notorious for its subcultural moral code and violent acts of retribution, has become the first gang to be designated a "transnational crime organization" by the U.S. Treasury Department.
The gang, also known as MS-13, boasts around 8,000 members in the U.S. and over 30,000 worldwide, with the heaviest concentrations found in L.A., San Francisco and the Washington, DC/Maryland area.
The Treasury designation will allow the federal government to freeze assets of MS-13 members at will for the gang's involvement drug trafficking, kidnapping, human smuggling, sex trafficking, murder, assassinations, racketeering, blackmail, extortion, and immigration offenses.
"MS-13 is an extremely violent and dangerous gang responsible for a multitude of crimes that directly threaten the welfare and security of U.S. citizens, as well as countries throughout Central America," Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a Treasury press release.
"This action positions us to target the associates and financial networks supporting MS-13, and gives law enforcement an additional tool in its efforts to disrupt MS-13's activities."
The group is known for its members' distinctive tattoos and use of a unique sign-language. Although they frequently carry out murders of rival gang members which injure innocents, the Treasury Department designation targets the group for transnational crimes, the funds generated from which go to the group's leadership in El Salvador.
The group also has pockets of membership in Canada, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. Before MS-13 was designated today, the only other groups identified as "transnational crime organizations" were the Brother's Circle, the Camorra, Los Zetas and Yakuza.
MS-13 is an ally of the Mexico's Zetas, as well as the Sinaloa Cartel, Gulf Cartel, La Familia Michoacana and Mexican Mafia.
"History has proven that we can successfully take down organized crime groups when we combine sophisticated investigative techniques with tough street level enforcement," Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said in a Treasury statement.
by RTT Staff Writer
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