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Transnational Gangs
08/09/2013

207 gang members arrested in Central America in HSI-led operation

207 gang members arrested in Central America in HSI-led operation
207 gang members arrested in Central America in HSI-led operation
207 gang members arrested in Central America in HSI-led operation

WASHINGTON – More than 200 alleged transnational criminal street gang members and associates were arrested in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras during a 60-day enforcement operation spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Central American law enforcement.

From May 20 to July 29, HSI’s National Gang Unit, HSI’s Office of International Affairs, HSI Honduras, HSI El Salvador and HSI Guatemala executed Operation CAGE (Central America Gang Enforcement), a high impact enforcement operation to aggressively combat transnational gangs in Central America. HSI special agents and law enforcement officers from the various countries executed 221 arrests (207 gang members and 14 smuggled aliens) and seized four weapons and six vehicles.

"The goal of this operation was to collaboratively locate and arrest gang members and associates engaged in transnational crimes," said HSI Executive Associate Director James A. Dinkins. "We are committed to working with our foreign law enforcement counterparts on an international level to address gang violence, to protect national security and to ensure public safety in our neighborhoods and the neighborhoods of our friends south of the U.S. border."

"This enforcement operation was a good experience, an exercise to exchange experiences, best practices and technology," said Salvadoran National Police Organized Crime Division Deputy Director Daniel De Jesus Martínez Hernandez. "Hopefully, our partnership with HSI in protecting public safety in El Salvador will be repeated in the future."

"La Unidad de Acción Nacional Contra el Desarrollo Criminal de las Pandillas (PANDA) thanks the U.S. government and the American Embassy in Guatemala City for their partnership and support to investigators to carry out these operations in an effort to minimize the growth of gangs operating in Guatemala," said Deputy Commissioner Hugo Sandoval-Bautista of the Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) Unidad PANDA. "These successful operations accomplished our desired objectives and we hope that in the future, we continue to receive the support to carry out our important mission to reduce the crime that affects our country."

"The government of Honduras recognizes and appreciates the valued collaboration by the United States government during Operation CAGE," said Minister of Security to Honduras Arturo Corrales álvarez. "The support and joint partnership between HSI and our nation’s police was fundamental and of great importance in the 19 enforcement actions that resulted in the arrest and detention of 186 people affiliated with the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs and the seizure of weapons, vehicles and communication devices."

CAGE began last May with threat assessments, intelligence gathering, information sharing and target identification, which resulted in enforcement operations in La Libertad, San Salvador, and Zaragoza, El Salvador; Guatemala City, Guatemala; and San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Through CAGE, HSI special agents worked side by side with foreign law enforcement to apprehend individuals from the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), 18th Street, Chirizos and Ultra Fiel gangs.

Transnational criminal street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-national members and are frequently involved in human smuggling and trafficking; narcotics smuggling and distribution; identity theft and benefit fraud; money laundering and bulk cash smuggling; weapons smuggling and arms trafficking; cybercrimes; export violations; and other crimes with a nexus to the border.

Of the 207 gang members or associates arrested, more than 64 had violent criminal histories. Seventeen were wanted for murder and one for rape.

Seven MS-13 and thirteen 18th Street gang members were arrested in El Salvador. Eleven 18th Street gang members were arrested in Guatemala. Sixteen MS-13, sixty-four 18th Street, 81 Chirizos and 11 Ultra Fiel gang members as well as 14 smuggled aliens were arrested in Honduras during this operation.

Arrests during CAGE included:

  • Angel Roberto Interiano-Calderon, aka El Capo, 29, a Salvadoran national and member of MS-13 gang arrested in San Salvador on aggravated homicide, gang affiliation and kidnapping conspiracy charges.
  • Nery Leonel Reyes Carranza, 34, a Guatemalan national and member of the 18th Street gang was arrested in Guatemala City on extortion charges. The enforcement action that targeted Reyes also targeted other co-conspirators operating within the Pavoncito prison, who were responsible for extorting civilians throughout Guatemala and abroad by threats of violence and intimidation. Also seized were numerous cell phones directly linked to extortion cases, ledgers and pay-owe sheets. The cell phone seized from Reyes Carranza was directly linked to five different extortion cases.
  • Adonias Joel Martinez aka Scarface and Cara Quemada, 31, a Honduran national and member of the 18th Street gang was arrested in Tegucigalpa on murder of a police officer, illegal possession of firearms, stolen vehicle and unauthorized use of police insignia. At the time of his arrest, agents and officers seized four 9mm pistols, a police radio and two stolen vehicles.

This enforcement operation was part of HSI’s Operation Community Shield (OCSTF) initiative and is administered by HSI's National Gang Unit (NGU). Operation Community Shield partners with existing federal, state and local anti-gang efforts to identify violent street gangs and develop intelligence on gang members and associates, gang criminal activities and international movements to arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members. HSI NGU’s goal is to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.

Since the inception of Operation Community Shield in February 2005, HSI special agents working in conjunction with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies nationwide have arrested more than 30,672 street gang members and associates linked to more than 2,300 different gangs. At least 40 percent of those arrested had a violent criminal history. More than 394 of those arrested were gang leaders and more than 4,265 were MS-13 gang members or associates. Through this initiative nationally, HSI has seized more than 4,597 firearms.

HSI’s has an OCSTF based in Honduras and created February 2010. Sharing information on transnational gang members with law enforcement on both sides of the border is essential to stopping the problem of gang activity.

Law enforcement agencies involved in CAGE included El Salvador’s Policía Nacional Civil (PNC)’s Interpol Division, Organized Crime Division and Anti-Gang Unit and Salvadoran Immigration authorities; Honduras Policía Nacional and la Dirección Nacional de Servicios Especiales de Investigación (DNSEI) and Guatemala’s Policía Nacional Civil’s Anti-Gang Unit, PANDA, Ministerio Público, Fiscalía Contra Extorciones De Crimen Organizado (Federal Prosecutions Office – Extortions Division) and Dirección Operativa del Sistema Penitenciario (Penitentiary System Operations).