WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has labeled a violent Central American street gang as an international criminal organization subject to U.S. government sanctions, the first time this designation has been given to such a group.
The designation applies to an organization known as MS-13, which started as a local street gang composed largely of immigrants from El Salvador, mostly in the Los Angeles area, and is believed to have as many as 10,000 members in 46 states and Central America. Members have been accused of crimes ranging from kidnapping and murder to drug smuggling and human trafficking.
The decision being announced by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control will smooth the way for federal authorities to seize assets associated with the organization, which is considered one of the world’s most dangerous gangs.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement gang investigators have long targeted the group, arresting thousands of suspected members in recent years.