Los Angeles, CA – A federal grand jury indicted 22 members of the notorious MS-13 gang on racketeering and murder charges in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Court documents showed that in five of the seven murders in the indictment, the bodies of the victims were dumped in the Angeles National Forest, NBC News reported.
One victim was a rival gang member who defaced some MS-13 graffiti, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The indictment said that six MS-13 gang members took the victim out into the forest and cut out his heart before they hacked him to death.
MS-13 was believed to be responsible for more than two dozen murders in Los Angeles, U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna told reporters at a press conference announcing the indictment.
"This investigation has been an unqualified success," Hanna declared. "The collaborative law enforcement effort solved several murder cases and dealt a severe blow to members of the gang who engaged in acts of brutality not seen in the region for over 20 years."
“We have now taken off the streets nearly two dozen people associated with the most violent arm of MS-13 in Los Angeles, where the gang is believed to have killed 24 people over the past two years,” he said.
The 78-page grand jury indictment said the gang regularly engaged in narcotics sales, robberies, burglaries, and extortion schemes, NBC News reported.
The indictment also detailed the vicious methods used to control the gang’s members, protect their territory, and intimidate rivals.
The indictment also showed that in order to join the Fulton subset of the MS-13 gang, prospective members were required to kill a member of a rival gang, or "someone perceived to be adverse to MS-13” before they could be initiated, according to NBC News.
MS-13 was founded in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by refugees of the war in El Salvador.
It was organized as a loose group of cliques, and when gang members were gradually deported back to Central America, the membership went international.
Law enforcement in the United States has identified at least 10,000 members in 10 states and multiple Latin American countries, NBC News reported.
Federal prosecutors said the Fulton clique of MS-13, to which the recently-indicted gang members belong, modeled itself after a group that is known as “503” in El Salvador.
Court papers alleged that recent arrivals from El Salvador frequently identified with the more violent Fulton clique and joined up with them to carry out the murders detailed by prosecutors in the indictment, NBC News reported.
The indictment also spelled out how the Fulton group was different from other MS-13 cliques because they had to swear fealty to the Mexican Mafia and pay them exorbitant extortion.
The 12-count indictment released on Tuesday detailed how a victim identified as J.H. was hacked to death in March of 2017 after his heart was cut out, and then his body parts were strewn all over a canyon, NBC News reported.
Court records also said that a victim identified as G.B. was hit on the back of the head with a gun in April of 2017, and then hacked to death with a machete.
G.B. was suspected of being a police informant, and his body parts were found near those of J.H., NBC News reported.
The indictment said that a victim identified as E.H. was killed using a knife and a machete in June of 2017.
Prosecutors said that non-gang members were also targeted, including a 34-year-old homeless man who had the misfortune of being in the North Hollywood park that the gang had declared belonged to them, NBC news reported.
German Arnulfo Cruz Hernandez, Angel Amadeo Guzman, Ever Joel Morales, Fernando Garcia Parada, Jose Baquiax Alvarez, Kevin Villalta Gomez, Kevin Arteaga, Edgard Velasquez, Walter Chavez Larin, Yefri Alexander Revelo, Wilfredo Vides, Gerardo Alvarado, Roberto Carlos Mendez Cruz, Bryan Alberto Ordones, Roberto Alejandro Corado Ortiz, Edwin Isaac Mendez, Josue Balmore Flores Castro, Luis Arturo Gonzalez, Edwin Martinez, Steven Emmanuel Linares, Marco Antonio Ramos, and Erick Eduardo Rosales Arias were named in the indictment.
Prosecutors also filed two additional cases under seal against juveniles in federal court, the Los Angeles Times reported.