Hundreds of federal and local law enforcement fanned out across Los Angeles in pre-dawn sweeps, serving arrest and search warrants as part of a three-year investigation into the ultra-violent street gang MS-13.
Federal prosecutors unsealed a sweeping indictment Wednesday morning charging dozens of members and leaders of the brutal street gang with a variety of crimes, including murder.
Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown said the 127-page anti-racketeering indictment targets 44 members and associates of the gang, including the one-time leader of a Los Angeles faction of MS-13. Three people accused of murder could face the death penalty, she said.
Twenty-one people named in the indictment were arrested in pre-dawn raids across Los Angeles and Brown said warrants were served at more than 50 locations. Jail officials around the region also conducted cell searches, as some of those indicted were already in custody on unrelated charges. About a dozen of those arrested were so-called "shot callers" for the gang. At least three people were still at large Wednesday.
"It's one of the largest and most entrenched gangs in Los Angeles," Brown said. "Today's actions will deal a critical blow to the top leadership."
Brown said MS-13 is responsible for murders of rival gang members, drug and human trafficking, prostitution and illegal alcohol sales, among other crimes. She described the racketeering case as one of the largest single cases targeting MS-13, a gang that started in Los Angeles but has expanded to nearly every state and El Salvador. The gang is blamed for horrific violence that has sent Salvadoran immigrants fleeing that country for the United States.