LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Twenty-two Los Angeles members of the notorious MS-13 gang with nicknames such as “Desastre” and “Lucifer” have been charged with running a criminal racketeering enterprise enforced with a string of murders, some by machete, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
The 12-count U.S. District Court indictment, handed down on Monday in Los Angeles, charges the MS-13 members and associates with killing seven people over the past two years, including gang rivals, people thought to be cooperating with police and a homeless man who was found living on their “turf.”
“Taking violent offenders off the street should send a message to MS-13 members and their associates that medieval-style violence and senseless murder will not be tolerated in Los Angeles,” Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said in a written statement.
MS-13, which originated in the 1980s as a Salvadoran street gang in Los Angeles called Mara Salvatrucha, has grown into a multi-national criminal organization known for its brutality. The “MS” is an abbreviation for Mara Salvatrucha - a reference to El Salvador - and the 13 is for M, the 13th letter of the alphabet, which reflects the gang’s loyalty to the Mexican Mafia.
The indictment targets a subset of MS-13 known as the “Fulton clique,” which prosecutors say operates out of the San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles and has recently mushroomed due to an influx of young Central American immigrants to Southern California.
The court documents say that younger associates of the Fulton clique who want to become full-fledged MS-13 members were required to kill a rival gang member or other adversary to gain initiation.
Among the murders detailed in the indictment is that of a rival gang member who was abducted and hacked to death on March 6, 2017 in a remote area of the Los Angeles National Forest by MS-13 members who believed he had defaced their graffiti.
The victim was dismembered, his heart cut from his chest and thrown into a canyon with other body parts, according to court papers.
Other slayings were also carried out with machetes, knives or baseball bats in the national forest or Malibu hills, prosecutors say. In addition to the murder charges, many of the 22 MS-13 members named in the indictment were charged with racketeering and conspiracy.
Among those charged were the accused leaders of the Fulton clique, Angel Amadeo Guzman, also known as “Splinter” or “Desastre,” Edgard Valasquez, known aka “Snoopy” and Walter Chavez Larin, aka “Delito” or “Dexter.”
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Bill Tarrant and Marguerita Choy