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Release No. 07-146
November 15, 2007
TASK FORCE TARGETS MS-13 GANG, INCLUDING LEADER OF LOS ANGELES FACTION
16 GANG MEMBERS AND ASSOCIATES ARRESTED ON FEDERAL NARCOTICS, IMMIGRATION CHARGES
Capping a two-year investigation, federal, state and local law enforcement authorities this morning took into custody a total of 26 members and associates of the MS-13 gang, arresting the gang’s No. 1 “shot caller” in the Los Angeles area, as well as top leaders of several cliques of the gang.
Oscar Chacon, the top member of MS-13 in Los Angeles, was arrested pursuant to a federal criminal complaint that accuses him of participating in a narcotics transaction in which approximately one-quarter pound of methamphetamine was sold, as well as five other deals involving smaller quantities of methamphetamine. The narcotics conspiracy charge against Chacon carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of life without parole.
Chacon is one of 16 defendants arrested today on federal charges, and most of those defendants face mandatory minimum sentences of at least five years in prison. Two other defendants were previously arrested on federal charges, and two more federal defendants are already are in custody on unrelated charges. A total of 26 defendants face federal charges contained in four indictments, 13 criminal complaints and one criminal information. Six of the federal defendants are considered to be fugitives.
In addition to the federal cases unsealed today, authorities today arrested three defendants on state charges, one was taken into immigration custody, and six were taken into custody for parole and probation violations. State authorities are still seeking to take 21 into custody on criminal charges and probation violations.
This investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Crime, which is comprised of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Probation Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The task force received the assistance of parole officers with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the United States Marshals Service and the United States Bureau of Prisons.
Additionally, officers with the Salvadoran PNC (Policia Nacional Civil) are in Los Angeles in support of today’s operation as part of a continuing cooperative effort with the FBI’s MS-13 National Gang Task Force. Additionally, PNC members observed today's operation in furtherance of the Officer Exchange initiative between the PNC, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. This participation is one of the results of an FBI-sponsored Gang Summit held earlier this year.
“We are committed to using all of the resources at our disposal to identify, prosecute and incarcerate gang members who prey upon our communities,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “This crackdown on MS-13 is the latest in a series of gang cases that my office has brought recently, and there will be more such cases in the near future. With the support of our federal, state and local law enforcement colleagues, we will have a significant impact in gang-infected neighborhoods in Southern California.”
Peter Brust, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, stated: "The collective efforts of agents and officers at every level of government which culminated in dozens of arrests today gave power to the voices of law-abiding citizens who have been held hostage in their own homes and neighborhoods. By significantly disrupting the MS-13 criminal enterprise in Los Angeles, those arrested can no longer exist in anonymity and wield their self-proclaimed power without fear of law enforcement intervention."
Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, is a transnational gang composed primarily of immigrants and descendants of immigrants from El Salvador and is thought to number approximately 10,000 members. The gang has established itself in a number of cities across the United States. There are a number of MS-13 “cliques” in the Los Angeles area, primarily east of downtown Los Angeles.
“Partnership between federal, state and local agencies is crucial in dealing with the gang problem,” said Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton. “Today's operation is an example of what law enforcement working together can accomplish to address what I call the number one problem facing our city – gangs.”
Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles, stated: “This operation is another prime example of what can be accomplished when federal, state, and local agencies join forces to attack the crime and violence perpetrated by organized street gangs. ICE wants to send a clear message that we will deal strongly with those who ignore our laws and place our neighborhoods at risk. This operation is proof we are making good on that pledge.”
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley commented: "Once again in Los Angeles County we are going after the worst sort of criminals in the most constructive way by the use of cooperative federal-state investigations and prosecutions."
According to City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, whose prosecutors assisted federal authorities in the investigation: “The MS-13 gang is a significant threat to the public safety of all Angelenos. Law enforcement agencies must observe jurisdictional boundaries, but MS-13 gang members do not. MS-13 is a transnational gang with a strong presence in the United States and Central America This puts a premium on federal, state and local cooperation. Working together, we aim to eradicate the MS-13 gang.”
Release No. 07-146
Return to the 2007 Press Release Index