NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. prosecutors announced terrorism charges Thursday against top MS-13 leaders imprisoned in El Salvador, accusing them of ordering killings and other crimes by the notorious street gang from behind bars.
The directives by the 14 defendants — members of an illicit commission known as “Ranfla Nacional” — have resulted in a wave of violence in El Salvador, the United States and elsewhere, prosecutors said. The defendants include Borromeo Enrique Henriquez, considered the leadership’s most powerful member, they said.
The charges brought in New York, part of an ongoing crackdown heavily pushed by President Donald Trump, comprise “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 in Washington.
An indictment charged the defendants with multiple conspiracy counts alleging they organized drug-trafficking and extortion schemes using MS-13’s members in the U.S. to raise money to support terrorist activities in El Salvador.
U.S. authorities said they were exploring ways to have the defendants brought to New York to face prosecution. It was not immediately clear whether any of the men had attorneys who could comment on their behalf.
According to the indictment filed in federal court in New York, Ranfla Nacional ordered an unsuccessful hit — what it called a “green light” — on an FBI agent that was detailed to El Salvador to investigate the gang. The court papers also said it used $600,000 in profits from criminal activities in the U.S. to buy machine guns, rocket launchers and other weapons for attacks on police and to finance other terrorism activities in El Salvador.
MS-13 leaders sought to create alliances with Mexican drug organizations, including the Sinaloa cartel run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the papers said. The notorious drug lord is serving a life sentence in the U.S following his 2019 conviction on drug conspiracy charges.