Domestic Terrorism and Death Penalty Charges - Feds Crack Down on MS-13

Simona Barca | July 18, 2020
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For the first time, the Department of Justice is bringing charges related to domestic terrorism against an MS-13 member, while also seeking the dealth penalty for another member, charging a total of 22 members of the violent street-gang. 

Nearing the one year mark of the Trump administration launching the Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV), an initiative aimed at disrupting, dismantling, and destroying La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a release stating new charges against MS-13 members, including some in leadership circles around the country. The initiative was launched in August 2019, with the goal of using a “whole-of-government approach to dismantle transnational criminal organizations, such as MS-13, and restore safety for the American people.

The group is known for savage murders, rapes, kidnappings, and petty drug smuggling, among a long list of criminal activities. 

In a significant development in the joint task force efforts to dismantle the organization, the D.O.J. announced the first-ever charges related to domestic terrorism against any member of the group. Melgar Diaz was charged in the Eastern District of Virginia with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiring to kill or maim persons overseas, conspiring to engage in narco-terrorism, and other offenses in a long list of terrorism related charges. 

The federal government has also announced it will be seeking the death penalty for Alexi Saenz, who was indicted in 2017 in the Eastern District of New York. Saenz is charged with committing seven murders between 2016 and 2017. 

The decision to seek the death penalty for Saenz comes on the heels of two executions carried out this week by the federal government, the first of which was following a 17-year hiatus.  

The joint task force, consisting of federal agencies and 10 U.S. Attorney’s Offices, brought charges against 22 MS-13 members throughout the country related to murders, attempted murders, kidnappings, narcotics and firearm offenses. 

The D.O.J estimates there are 10,000 MS-13 members within the United States and more than 30,000 members in the world. 

Less than a year after the formation of the joint task force and three years after President Trump directed the Department of Justice to declare war on MS-13, taking down over 20 MS-13 members and leaders is a mark of success in an on-going effort to completely dismantle the violent street-gang.