A nationwide sweep by federal, state and local law enforcement authorities of violent street gangs has resulted in more than 30 arrests of gang members named this week in indictments and criminal complaints handed up in courts from Washington, D.C., to Las Vegas.
The gang members, including seven Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, members in Washington, are named on charges of murder, murder conspiracy, racketeering conspiracy, narcotics trafficking, robbery and gun trafficking. Led by the FBI, teams of law enforcement officers began the sweep after the indictments and complaints were unsealed Wednesday.
"Although these cases are in different parts of the country, they illustrate the common threats gang members pose to our communities," said FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins, who heads the bureau's Criminal Investigative Division.
"Gangs were once found in big cities, but their operations are now migrating to rural areas," he said. "The types of offenses gang members commit are also changing, from drug-running and petty crimes to home invasions and health care fraud."
In Washington, the seven MS-13 members are charged with racketeering conspiracy and other offenses including two murders, armed robbery, sexual abuse while armed, kidnapping and obstructing justice. The indictment alleges that between 2008 and 2010, MS-13 members in Washington sent money to gang leaders in El Salvador, as well as participated in the stabbing of rival gang members and kidnapping, among other crimes.
Also named in the indictments and complaints were seven members of the Click Clack gang in Kansas City; 12 Colonias Chiques gang members in Los Angeles; two members and associates of the Sureno 13 and San Chucos gangs in Las Vegas; and 13 Tri-City Bomber members and associates in McAllen, Texas.
"Gangs threaten the safety and stability of neighborhoods across our nation," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, who heads the Justice Department's Criminal Division. "Gangs spread fear in our communities, trading in guns, drugs and violence, and they cause too many young people to choose lives of crime.
"The Justice Department is fighting back, against both local street gangs and large organized criminal enterprises with international reach," he said.
In addition to this week's enforcement actions, the FBI said that during the past eight days federal prosecutors have charged 53 members of the 38th Street gang in Los Angeles, and three members of the Crips, Bloods and Gangster Disciples in Memphis with federal crimes, as well as added charges against 12 Blood gang members in New Haven, Conn.
In Boston, the bureau said a Fayston/Brunswick gang member and an MS-13 member each were charged with firearms offenses, and a Mozart Street gang member was arrested on a firearms charge. In addition, an MS-13 member was arrested in Alexandria, Va., on federal charges.
The charges carry a variety of maximum penalties, including up to life in prison.
Addressing gangs and gang-related violence is one of the Justice Department's top priorities. The National Gang Targeting, Enforcement and Coordination Center is a multiagency effort designed to unify federal efforts to disrupt and dismantle the most significant and violent gangs in the United States through case coordination and strategic intelligence.
In total, 112 suspected gang members have been arrested, charged, pleaded guilty or been sentenced in February 2011 as part of the department's efforts.
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