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Published: Tuesday, 10/23/2012

Gang of the nation

About two decades ago, two immigrants from El Salvador started a gang in Los Angeles that would evolve into one of the most ruthless criminal enterprises in U.S. history.

The gang called itself Mara Salvatrucha. Today, with an estimated 10,000 members and an operation that engages in murder, extortion, prostitution, kidnapping, and smuggling in 46 states, the gang goes by the shorter name MS-13. It has elevated killing and mutilation by machete and other forms of stabbing and hacking to a gruesome art.

At the behest of the Obama Administration, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has designated MS-13 an international criminal group. That lays the groundwork for the systematic targeting of the cartel’s criminal profits and finances.

Millions of ill-gotten dollars that MS-13 seeks to launder in U.S. banks and foreign financial institutions can now be seized. The administration wants to make the gang’s cost of doing business in the United States prohibitively high.

Any American institution or business that launders or hides money on behalf of the crime organization can have its assets frozen. Sending profits made in the United States back to El Salvador, where its leaders are holed up, will become progressively more difficult.

The gang is especially effective in communities with large Salvadoran populations, but expands anywhere an illegal buck can be made. The Obama Administration’s decision to throw federal resources into smashing MS-13 is a sign that the gang’s reign of terror and intimidation may be coming to an end.

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