More than a year after the federal government declared that the L.A.-born Mara Salvatrucha gang is a "transnational criminal organization" with ties from Canada to South America and Virginia to Spain, the FBI cracked down on MS-13 in its old neighborhoods.
Twenty MS associates were charged, and all but one were in custody, based mostly on connection with federal and local criminal complaints alleging distribution of methamphetamine and extortion, the FBI stated:
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told us most of the arrests made in connection with the case unfolded in MS' traditional neighborhoods of Koreatown, Westlake and Hollywood.
The gang got its start at Seoul International Park in Koreatown in the 1980s and spread to nearby Lafayette Park and Leeward Avenue, not to mention parts of Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.
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The core of the take-downs occurred in an area bounded by Sunset and Olympic boulevards between Gower Street or Western Avenue and Lafayette Park, Eimiller said.
A grand jury indicted 14 gangsters for meth distribution, she said. Five others were charged by the L.A. County District Attorney's office for alleged extortion, Eimiller said. One additional defendant, Candi Pascual, was arrested based on a California warrant, the FBI stated.
Some were already in custody. One is outstanding. The others were arrested this morning, feds said.
One of the gang's victim's, Eimiller said, was forced to do the gang's bidding, including tagging MS's name around the neighborhood.
"They would charge him money if he didn't do it," she said. "He was treated like an ATM, one agent said."
During the crackdown this morning seven children were taken from defendants' homes and placed into the custody of the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services, the FBI stated.
One suspect, the MS Hollywood clique's Elvis Molina, a.k.a. Lil Commando, was at-large and being sought by federal agents.
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Here's the FBI's list of defendants:
Those charged in the federal indictments are listed below:
Thomas Rodriguez, aka "Big Boy," 35, Los Angeles, Arrested
Jose Rodriguez, aka "Dreamer," 34, Los Angeles, Arrested
Jorge Orellana, aka "Spike," 34, Los Angeles, Arrested
Anival Orellana, aka "Pantera," 35, Los Angeles, Arrested
Juan Garcia, aka "Duende," 32, Los Angeles, Arrested
Rogelio Lemus, aka "Sky," 42, Los Angeles, Arrested
Elvis Molina, aka "Lil Comando," 33, Lynwood, Fugitive
Jose Avelar, aka "Chema," 38, Los Angeles, Arrested
Lazaro Nunez, aka "Fino," 28, Los Angeles, Arrested
Fabel Roque, aka "Spooky," 25, Kansas City, Arrested
Sandra Hernandez Chinchila, 40, Valencia, Arrested
Mario Morales, aka "Plucky," already in custody on unrelated charges
Luis Vega, aka "Lil One," 29, already in custody on unrelated charges
Edwin Castillo, aka "Directo," 31, already in custody on unrelated charges
The state defendants are listed below:
Santos Ventura, aka "Payaso," 30, Los Angeles
Jonathan Chavez, aka "Lento," 25, Los Angeles
Thomas Linares, aka "Lil Lonely," 30, Los Angeles
Oscar Chavez, 28, Los Angeles
Ivan Castro, aka Inocente," 21, already in custody
If you think you know where Molina is, by the way, the FBI would love to hear from you: 1-800-225-5324. Or call your local LAPD station.