WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 361 individuals in July and August during a nationwide gang operation targeting members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) transnational street gang.
The 361 arrests included 263 gang members and associates from 43 different gangs in 71 U.S. cities and 98 others encountered during the operation: 84 non-gang members wanted on criminal charges and 14 for immigration violations.
This national anti-gang enforcement operation, "Project Razor's Edge," was conducted July 15 to Aug. 9. The operation was led by HSI's National Gang Unit (NGU) under the auspices of Operation Barbed Wire to combat the national security and public safety threats posed by MS-13 gang members and associates and to ultimately identify, target, arrest, and prosecute MS-13 gang members and associates as well as their rival gangs.
Twenty-five HSI field offices worked with local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies in the areas they cover to conduct threat assessments regarding MS-13 members and associates with prior criminal convictions as well as foreign-born gang members and those on federal or state parole.
"Operations like these are especially rewarding for the men and women of HSI as they know firsthand that they're playing a critical role in community safety," said HSI Executive Associate Director James Dinkins.
According to HSI, 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 361 arrested:
- 158 were MS-13 members and associates,
- 297 were charged with criminal offenses,
- 64 were arrested for being in violation of U.S. immigration laws,
- 130 had violent criminal histories,
- 4 were gang leaders, and
- 202 were foreign nationals.
Of the 297 arrested for federal and state criminal violations, charges included first degree murder, aggravated assault, assault, firearms possession, aggravated robbery, armed robbery, attempted armed robbery, obstruction of criminal investigations, interference with commerce by threats or violence, illegal re-entry of a removed alien, sexual assault, indecent contact with a minor and kidnapping. In addition to the arrests, during the operation, HSI special agents seized 28 firearms, 9.94 kilograms of marijuana, 122.8 grams of cocaine, 771.50 grams of heroin and $22,390.85 in U.S. currency.
Arrests during Razor's Edge included the following:
- Luis Ventura Guzman, 19, a citizen of El Salvador and member of MS-13, was arrested in Petersburg, Va., on first degree murder charges and illegal re-entry of a removed alien.
- Erik Alan Hernandez-Aragan, 21, a member of MS-13, was arrested in Charlotte County, N.C., for assault with a deadly weapon, discharging a weapon into an occupied dwelling (vehicle), possession of cocaine and heroin, trafficking heroin and resisting arrest. HSI Charlotte special agents and the Mecklenburg Police Department also seized a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic 9 mm handgun, 11.5 grams of heroin and 1.2 grams of cocaine.
- John C. Pohl, 23, a member of MS-13, was arrested along with his associates AC Casaus, 21, and Johnathan Parker, 20, in New Mexico, on possession of a stolen firearm and possession with intent to distribute heroin. HSI Albuquerque special agents also seized five stolen handguns and 1/2 oz. of heroin.
- Ronald Salgado, 20, a member of MS-13, was arrested in Charleston, S.C., on criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
Those arrested came from 15 countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States. Of the total number arrested, 323 were males and 38 were females.
This enforcement operation is part of HSI's Operation Community Shield initiative. 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's National Gang Unit deters, disrupts and dismantles 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 across the nation 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, HSI has seized more than 4,597 firearms nationally.
ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) assisted in this enforcement action.