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Federal and local law enforcement officers conducted 50 simultaneous raids in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday, taking down almost two dozen “high-ranking” suspected leaders of the notoriously violent MS-13 street gang, along with numerous Mexican Mafia leaders, in what is being described as the “largest gang raid in Los Angeles history.”
According to NBC News’ local Los Angeles affiliate, the raids were “the culmination of a three-year investigation,” in the words of the FBI’s Deidre Fike.
Led by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Gangs, the investigation began in June 2014, targeting the most violent actors and most senior leaders within the violent criminal enterprise controlled by MS-13, along with their ties to the Mexican Mafia.
Some 34 MS-13 and Mexican Mafia associates were charged with federal RICO violations, and five Mexican Mafia associates were charged “in a narcotics conspiracy.” Two others were arrested for probable cause for narcotics and weapons violations, Fike added.
The Los Angeles Daily News quoted Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown: “This gang is responsible for murders — both of rival gangsters and innocent bystanders — as well as drug dealing and extortion in many communities in the Los Angeles area … With thousands of members here in the Southland, the gang’s power is widespread — power which it maintains with severe acts of violence.”
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Los Angeles has long been the epicenter for MS-13 criminal activity, which has tens of thousands of members across the globe and is considered one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States. Originally founded on the streets of Los Angeles in the 1980s to protect new El Salvadoran immigrants from more established Mexican street gangs who preyed on them, MS-13 became known for its vicious and brutal methods of enforcing its territory — often decapitating rival gang members — in order to instill fear within the neighborhoods it controlled.
“They extort them. They rob them. They rape them. They murder them. Without their cooperation as witnesses, none of this would be possible,” Beck added.
The Times also made special note that President Donald Trump should not receive any credit for the raids—even though they occurred on his watch: “The sweep was based on sealed federal indictments orchestrated before President Trump — who has cast MS-13 as a deadly domestic scourge that his administration will wipe out — took office.”
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