In the indictment, filed in Central Islip, N.Y., where MS-13 members have committed a series of brutal slayings, 14 members of the transnational gang were charged. The leaders — known as la Ranfla Nacional — are charged with providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, conspiracy to finance terrorism to conspiracy narco-terrorism.
“The indictment announced today is the highest-reaching and most sweeping indictment targeting MS-13 and its command and control structure in U.S. history,” acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement.
Authorities said Borromeo Enrique Henriquez, who is regarded as the most powerful member of Ranfla Nacional, and 10 other defendants were imprisoned in El Salvador. The Justice Department was exploring ways to extradite them to the United States.
Three others — Fredy Ivan Jandres-Parada, Cesar Humberto Lopez-Larios and Hugo Armando Quinteros-Mineros — remain at large.
While imprisoned, the gang leaders ordered killings and continued to run the gang through contraband cell phones, the smuggling of written messages and intermediaries, according to a federal indictment.
In El Salvador, the gang controls large parts of the economy, particularly mass transportation, authorities said. Gang members also have aligned with Mexican drug cartels to engage in human trafficking and smuggling.
MS-13 was founded in Los Angeles in the 1980s by refugees fleeing a civil war in El Salvador to protect themselves from more established Hispanic gangs in the area. It grew exponentially after many members were deported to El Salvador
Among the crimes its members are accused of, the gang is allegedly responsible for the deaths of four young men in a Long Island, N.Y., park.
President Trump had pledged to aggressively combat dismantle the gang.