New York prosecutors take down 96 MS-13 gang members and associates originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
The notorious MS-13 street gang in Suffolk County, New York, has been declared "inoperable," law enforcement officials announced on Friday.
Authorities said during a press conference that 96 MS-13 gang members and associates were indicted on 77 counts including second-degree conspiracy to commit murder, gun possession and criminal possession of a controlled substance.
The massive takedown is what investigators described as the largest of the violent street gangs in New York State history. Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said that over 200 arrest were made across the country and in El Salvador as a result of this 23-month investigation.
The multi-agency operation has thwarted seven alleged murder plots and led to the arrest of nine leaders that operated cliques throughout the county, said Sini.
Originally founded in Southern California by gang members from El Salvador, MS-13, known in Spanish as La Mara Salvatrucha, has been accused in recent years of brutal murders and assaults on eastern Long Island.
The "operation has delivered a major blow to MS-13 operations and recruitment in the region," Sini said.
The 96 defendants include 66 MS-13 gang members and 19 drug suppliers, ages 16 to 69, officials said.
The district attorney noted the investigation included the "largest wiretap operation in the United States."
"This ruthless and savage gang extorted innocent members of our community," sold drugs and sent portions of that money back to the leadership in El Salvador, Sini said.
During the arrest of the alleged conspirators, 10 kilograms of cocaine, press pills of fentanyl, drug ledgers, handguns, numerous machetes and "well over $200,000 in cash were recovered, Sini added.
"This depicts how brutal and savage this gang is," he said, while holding a machete that was recovered, adding, "To the MS-13, we are coming for you."
MS-13 tried to establish an East Coast base and has wreaked havoc throughout the county. Their violence in Long Island included the 2016 murders of 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas and 15-year-old Nisa Mickens, which drew the attention of President Donald Trump.
"They kidnap, they extort, they rape and they rob. They prey on children, they shouldn't be here," Trump said when he visited Suffolk County in July 2017. "It's time for every member of MS-13 to be in fear. Look over their shoulder. Look in their rear view mirror, because ICE and its partners are coming hard, and we're coming strong."
Brothers Alexi and Jairo Saenz were charged in connection with six murders, including of Cuevas and Micken. They have pleaded not guilty and the case is still pending. If convicted, they both face up to life in prison or the death penalty -- which was reinstated in July 2019 by U.S. Attorney William Barr after a 15-year moratorium on executions.
In November, the brothers also pleaded not guilty to a seventh murder they are accused of participating in.