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3/14: 103 Alleged Honduran Gang Members Arrested
Released 31 March 2005  By LARA JAKES JORDAN, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - More than 100 alleged members of the violent Honduran street gang MS-13 have been arrested in a nationwide sweep, authorities said Monday.

Using information from local and state law enforcement agencies, federal agents charged 103 members of the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang with a range of criminal and immigration charges. The arrests came in the New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Newark, Miami and Dallas metropolitan areas over the last several weeks.

Officials said MS-13 is one of the largest and most violent street gangs in the United States, and the majority of its members are in the country illegally. The gang has carried out beheadings and grenade attacks in Central America and is known to hack their enemies with machetes in cities along the East Coast in the United States.

The arrests are the result of a new ``Operation Community Shield'' nationwide sting by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to target violent gangs.

``By bringing the full range of ICE's immigration and customs authorities in the fight against violent street gangs, we can take hundreds of gang members off the streets and have a significant impact on community safety,'' said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Michael Garcia, who is director of the ICE bureau.

Half of the alleged gang members have prior arrests or convictions for violent crimes, including murder, sodomy, assault, arson and weapons and drug possession, officials said.

In one example, on March 13 agents arrested a man who acknowledged he is a founding member and leader of the MS-13 cell in Hollywood, officials said. The man, who was charged with immigration violations, was previously convicted in the United States for robbery, possession of a dangerous weapon and mail theft.

Authorities also arrested the purported leader of the MS-13 cell in Long Branch, N.J. on March 10. The suspect has a criminal rap sheet that includes charges of arson, weapons possession and grand larceny, officials said. He was also arrested on immigration charges.

Last month, former Homeland Security Deputy Secretary James Loy called MS-13 an emerging threat to the United States, referring to the gang and the al-Qaida terrorist organization in the same breath in testimony to Congress. Besides al-Qaida, Loy said, ``We are seeing the emergence of other threatening groups and gangs like MS-13 that will also be destabilizing influences.''

Officials arrested 30 alleged gang members in the New York metropolitan area, the most of any of the seven cities targeted. Twenty-five were arrested in Washington, 17 in Los Angeles, and 10 each in the Baltimore, Newark and Miami areas. The last arrest came in Dallas, officials said.

On the Net:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

03/14/05 11:07 EST

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