US President Donald Trump and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Wednesday announced several new cases related to the US government’s campaign to dismantle MS-13, an international criminal gang that has been aggressively targeted by the Trump administration.
The cases are being conducted by Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV), an initiative launched in August 2019 by US Attorney General William Barr to direct the DOJ and US law enforcement agencies in their anti-MS-13 efforts. The government contends that JTFV has been successful in many areas, including implementing a whole-of-government approach to law enforcement and increasing collaboration with foreign law enforcement partners. Federal prosecutors from the DOJ’s National Security Division and the Criminal Division, as well as 10 US Attorney’s Offices have been assigned to serve JTFV in full-time capacities.
The new cases include the first time that an MS-13 member was charged with terrorism-related offenses and the Attorney General’s decision to seek the death penalty against an MS-13 defendant. MS-13 leader Melgar Diaz will be the first MS-13 member to be charged with terrorism offenses. His indictment was unsealed Tuesday. The announcement also revealed that another MS-13 leader, Alexi Saenz, was indicted in 2017 in the Eastern District of New York for allegedly committing seven murders and will have the death penalty sought by Attorney General Barr in his case.
On Tuesday, the Eastern District of New York charged eight MS-13 members with Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO), and Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR). The charges are connected “to six murders, two attempted murders, kidnapping, narcotics, and related firearms offenses.”