Task Force Targets MS-13 and Mexican Mafia, Gang Leadership Takedown
AP pic of arrest on May 17
LOS ANGELES – Gang leaders, shot-callers and murderers were rounded up in a Los Angeles countywide task force collaboration on Wednesday. A nearly three-year investigation targeted the gang activities of MS-13 and the Mexican Mafia, dismantling much of the MS-13 leadership.
Federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities took into custody 21 members and associates of the nearly 30-year-old Mara Salvatrucha, the transnational criminal street gang commonly called MS-13.
The suspects face a wide range of charges including federal racketeering, narcotics, conspiracy and homicide. Besides narcotics trafficking and violent crimes, the gang’s members allegedly engaged in a wide range of criminal conduct, including extortion of street-level drug dealers and innocent business owners who were threatened with death for non-payment. Illegal operations of after-hours clubs generated profits from gambling, illegal narcotics, and alcohol sales.
Gang members arrested by The L.A. Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Gangs (LAMTFVG) are among 44 defendants facing federal charges. The former head of the entire gang in Los Angeles and 12 senior leaders of the gang, who led a majority of the gang’s cliques in the Los Angeles region had formed a de facto leadership council – a committee where no one person would face ongoing law enforcement scrutiny.
A racketeering indictment charges three MS-13 members for gang-connected murder, solved with the LAMTFVG investigation, in partnership with LAPD Olympic Division Homicide detectives.
Carlos Alfredo Cardoza Lopez (aka “Little Boy,” 23), faces a violent crime in aid of racketeering (VICAR) murder charge for allegedly fatally shooting an innocent bystander on August 15, 2015 inside the gang-controlled Little San Salvador Nightclub and Restaurant on North Western Avenue. A friend of the murder victim was also stabbed during the attack.
Two other MS-13 members – Samuel Alexander Paredes Rivas (aka “Blacky,” 39), and Joffri Molina (aka“Espia,” 24) – are charged with VICAR murder. Rivas faces charges for the murder of a man on August 30, 2015 at a strip mall in Pacoima and Molina for murdering a man on September 27, 2015 on a North Hollywood street.
Lopez, Rivas and Molina are eligible for the death penalty if found guilty of the murder offenses. Prosecutors will decide whether to seek the death penalty at a later date.
Another two MS-13 members have been charged with narcotics and firearms offenses. One defendant charged in this sweep is named in a case filed under seal because he was a juvenile at the time of the alleged offenses.
In addition to the 34-defendant RICO indictment, prosecutors have filed a drug-trafficking indictment against five other gang members who were associated with the Mexican Mafia. These defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, as well as various narcotics and firearms offenses.
Those in custody will be arraigned at the US District Court to face the charges at a later date.
The investigation into MS-13 was conducted by the LAMTFVG and was led by the FBI and the LAPD. “This gang uses coercion and intimidation while inflicting horrific violence in the neighborhoods where they operate,” said ATF Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Eric Harden. “Today is a great win for justice and a heavy message to the community. Law enforcement will combine their resources and all our areas of expertise to cripple these organizations. We will win, they will lose.”