WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department announced Thursday that it has designated the violent Latin American gang MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, as an international criminal organization.
MS-13 has been involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, kidnapping, murder and extortion, among other serious offenses. The decision by the Obama administration marks the first time this designation has been given to such a group.
MS-13 originated as a street gang in the Los Angeles area, composed mainly of immigrants from El Salvador, and has long been a target of Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators. The gang is believed to have as many as 10,000 members in 46 states and throughout Central America.
The particularly violent nature of the group is evident in one of its mottos: “Mata, roba, viola, controla,” which translates to “Kill, steal, rape and control.”