- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A nationwide law-enforcement initiative aimed at disrupting violent international streets gangs in America’s urban and rural communities netted eight known gang members this week from San Francisco to Detroit, bringing to 400 the number of suspected gang members taken into custody since March.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, as part of Operation Community Shield, also removed from the country nine gang members who had been held at the federal detention center in Buffalo, N.Y.

The gang members, charged with crimes ranging from manslaughter and weapons possession to robbery and assault, were identified as foreign nationals from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, whose gang affiliations included Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13; the Mexican Boys; the Big Kings of SUR-13; Esquadron; La Gran Raza and Trinitarios.

“Every time ICE removes a dangerous and brutal gang member from the country, our towns and cities become safer,” said William Cleary, detention and deportation field office director in Buffalo. “Even if the person removed is a low-level member of a vicious criminal organization, it profits from drug trafficking, prostitution and other violent activities.”

ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said the eight arrested this week have been charged with being in the United States illegally and are being detained pending immigration hearings.

Among those arrested or removed, he said, were:

• Victor Alejandro Ortega, a Mexican national, member of the Border Brother gang and aggravated felon with convictions for transporting and selling a controlled substance and assault with a firearm.

• Arnin Valdez-Bonilla, a Honduran national who is a member of M-13 and has a conviction for assault.

• Roberto Villazania-Hernandez, a Mexican national who is a member of the SUR-12 gang and has a conviction for aggravated assault.

• Demetrio Casco, a Mexican national and a member of the gang Esquadron with a criminal history that includes convictions for possession of a weapon, attempted assault and possession of dangerous contraband in prison.

• Jorge Martinez, an El Salvador national who is a member of MS-13 and has convictions for attempted robbery, robbery and drug possession.

Mr. Boyd said that in recent years, the number of criminal gangs in the United States has grown, while the gangs themselves have become more vicious and widespread. Among the most violent and rapidly growing is MS-13, which is thought to have as many as 2,000 members in Virginia, Maryland and the District.

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