Street Gang MS-13 Joins the Big Leagues
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Having terrorized the US for decades, Mala Salvatrucha (or MS-13) will now become the first street gang in the country to earn the official title of “transnational criminal organization." The US federal government has taken this unprecedented action in order to try to curb the gang's rapid growth. MS-13's new title gives the US Treasury Department the power to freeze any financial assets belonging to the gang or its members, and prohibits financial institutions from engaging in any transactions with members. It will also make it hard for MS-13 to use banks and wire transfers to funnel profits back to the group's leadership in El Salvador. “As the reach of gangs becomes more international, the seizing and freezing of assets becomes essential to addressing the violence that comes along with it,” says LA Police Chief Charlie Beck. Approximately 8,000 of MS-13's 30,000 members are believed to be operating across more than 40 US states. LA City Councilman Ed Reyes says that although the gang isn't as brutal today as it was 20 years ago, it still terrorizes businesses, residents and undocumented immigrants through its involvement in the drug trade, extortion and human trafficking. Other organizations that have received this "honor" are Japan's Yakuza organized crime syndicate and Mexico's Zetas—one of whose founders, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed by Mexican Marines last Sunday.