Good afternoon. I'd like to welcome Michael Sullivan, acting Director of the ATF, Ken Kaiser, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, and U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein from the District of Maryland.
Yesterday a federal grand jury in Greenbelt, Maryland charged Dany Mejia (also known as “Sisco”), Saul Angel (also known as “Trece”) and Rigoberto Mejia (also known as “Ski”) – all three of whom are leaders of the international gang, La Mara Salvatrucha or “MS-13,” – with federal racketeering crimes. Two of them allegedly ordered for murders in the U.S. from inside their prison cells in El Salvador.
MS-13 is an extremely violent gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador, with members also running criminal operations in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and throughout the United States.
To give you an idea of the level of organization and ferocity of crimes that this gang is alleged to be responsible for, this indictment charges that the three defendants and at least 13 others in the United States conspired to operate their gang in this country and El Salvador through a pattern of racketeering activity, including:
*eight murders in Maryland and one in Virginia; *the use of deadly weapons including firearms, baseball bats, machetes, bottles or knives in the commission of murders, attempted murders, and assaults on victims including young women, rival gang members and one of their own members from El Salvador; and
*the commission of various other serious crimes including kidnapping, robbery, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence in the United States of life in prison for conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise. All defendants are presumed innocent under the law until and unless convicted.
The investigation being discussed today was initiated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, conducted jointly with the Gang Squad within the Criminal Division at the Justice Department and a task force headed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that includes agents and officers from the ATF, FBI, ICE at the Department of Homeland Security, the Maryland National Park Police, the Maryland Department of State Police, the Montgomery County Police Department, the Howard County Police Department and the Prince George’s County Police Department. Both the FBI’s MS-13 National Gang Task Force and the Civilian National Police in El Salvador also played critical roles. I want to recognize all of these law-enforcement professionals for their contributions to this case.
This indictment results in part from a comprehensive series of anti-gang initiatives previously announced to target and pursue America’s most violent and dangerous gangs including the creation of the national, multi-agency anti-gang task force, known as GangTECC, as well as the National Gang Intelligence Center, and the establishment last year of a new team of national, anti-gang prosecutors called the Gang Squad.
It also stems from a far-reaching set of anti-gang initiatives that I announced while in El Salvador in February of this year. These initiatives were undertaken in cooperation with El Salvador, Mexico and neighboring countries and involve unprecedented collaboration at the local, state, federal and international level.
They include increasing regional anti-gang training in Central America – where the fourth such U.S.-sponsored program is underway in San Salvador this very week, the FBI’s Central American Fingerprinting Exploitation initiative – which helps track down violent criminals no matter which country they hide in – and the establishment of a new Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) center by El Salvador’s national police, in partnership with the FBI and the U.S. Department of State. In fact, several El Salvadoran investigators who are slated to be part of the new Center provided critical assistance in the international investigation against these three defendants.
The challenge of gangs and violent crime remain with us, but I am committed to making our neighborhoods safer. And I am extremely proud of our law enforcement partners – here in the U.S. as well as in El Salvador, Mexico and neighboring countries.
I also want to personally thank my counterpart El Salvador, Attorney General Garrid Safie and Minister of Security Rene Figueroa, and salute the leadership of President Antonio Saca. Our partnerships enabled us to conduct this investigation internationally and effectively target key players in the leadership of this gang that terrorizes so many neighborhoods.
I will be traveling to Mexico later this week to participate in a law-enforcement Summit of Attorneys General from Central America and Mexico. These meetings will build on and enhance our ongoing law-enforcement initiatives with our partners – initiatives that are helping us achieve success in policing MS-13 and other violent transnational gangs.
Together, we will make the streets and neighborhoods of all the Americas safer for our children.