LAS VEGAS (AP) — Five members of the MS-13 street gang have been arrested in the killings of 10 victims in the Las Vegas area over the past year, authorities said Monday.
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo did not identify any of the suspects but released a list of victims found stabbed and shot to death since March 2017. He also provided a map of places where the 10 bodies were found, including federal land in remote areas near Lake Mead and mountains around the city.
The announcement comes amid declarations by President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that they are committed to cracking down on the violent street gang.
The gang known as La Mara Salvatrucha emerged in the 1980s as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles but is believed by federal prosecutors to have thousands of members across the U.S., primarily immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras. They have been linked to waves of violence in the suburbs of New York City, Washington, D.C., and other communities.
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Trump blames lax U.S. immigration laws for allowing deported members of MS-13 to return to the U.S. to prey upon law-abiding people. He also faults a federal system that has allowed tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America who crossed the U.S. border illegally to remain in the country.
Lombardo, who faces re-election this year, insisted that having the four adults in federal immigration detention and a 17-year-old held as a juvenile crippled a Las Vegas cell of MS-13 that he numbered at less than 50 members.
He said the case had ties to Los Angeles and Fresno, California, but did not elaborate.
“I’m very confident that the active players of the gang associated with MS-13 are in custody,” Lombardo said.
A spokeswoman for interim U.S. Attorney Dayle Elieson didn’t immediately comment about the case.
Lt. John Leon, head of the Las Vegas police gang unit, said the MS-13 link to the Las Vegas-area slayings became clear in January after investigators found that two men who knew each other and had current or former ties to the gang were found similarly shot, stabbed and left dead in remote areas.
Another break came after police raids netted 18 weapons, including one gun used both in a March 2017 killing and in the Dec. 31 death of a man gunned down in the driveway of a home.
Three people who were arrested with the others were cleared and not charged, Lombardo said, after they provided what the sheriff called cooperation and information that was vital to the investigation.