NEW YORK - The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office announced Friday the takedown of 96 members of the MS-13 gang and their associates. Authorities called it an unprecedented blow to the violent street gang,
The two-year-long, multi-agency operation is the largest takedown of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, members in New York State history, according to Suffolk DA Timothy Sini. Sini said it "decimated" the gang's leadership.
Criminal charges were brought against members and associates of the ruthless gang.
During the investigation, seven murder plots were thwarted, according to Sini.
A special grand jury indicted 45 gang members and 19 associates for murder conspiracies, drug trafficking, weapons possession and sales, gang violence and other offenses. The suspects, who range in age from 16 to 59, are a mix of U.S. citizens, legal residents, and illegal immigrants.
The gang is notorious for using machetes to hack its victims to death.
"MS-13 is a ruthless, savage gang," Sini said at a news conference, pointing to a machete recovered by law enforcement. "They will attempt to recalibrate and send individuals to take up leadership roles in Suffolk County. That's why we have to stay vigilant."
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Authorities said they seized more than 10 kilograms of cocaine, hundreds of fentanyl pills, drug ledgers, long guns and other firearms, and more than $200,000 cash. Those taken into custody included the leaders of nine so-called "cliques"—factions of MS-13.
"What you're hearing from us today is that we're more committed than ever to eradicate this gang," Sini said. "Is the battle over? Absolutely not."
MS-13 is considered one of the top transnational organized crime threats in the United States. Violence committed by the gang, including the 2016 slayings of two teenage girls, helped spark an aggressive effort by the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department to dismantle the gang.
President Donald Trump, who visited Long Island in July 2017 to address the gang problem, has blamed the violence and gang growth on lax immigration policies.
The assisting agencies including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the New York State Police, the Suffolk County Police Department, the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office, the Nassau County District Attorney's Office, the Nassau County Police Department, the Nassau County Sheriff's Office, the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, the Hempstead Village Police Department, Port Washington Police Department and the Rockville Centre Police Department.
With the Associated Press