New York Prosecutors Celebrate Unprecedented MS-13 Takedown

Dozens of gang members of La Mara Salvatrucha, who are among the more than 400 charged in a trial, follow the legal process through a closed circuit of television installed in the Hearing Room in the Isidro Menendez Judicial Center in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Oct. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CN) — Wielding a machete in its sheath for a photo op, a Long Island prosecutor announced Friday that nearly a hundred drug dealers and MS-13 members are off the streets after the biggest gang bust of its kind.

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini detailed the takedown this afternoon, saying the gang known in Spanish as La Mara Salvatrucha was rendered “inoperable” on Long Island thanks to an investigation involving state and federal authorities that began 2 1/2 years ago.

Running what he called an “extraordinary” wiretap of more than 200 phones, Sini said authorities collected mounds of evidence. In addition to machetes like the one the prosecutor brought to the press conference, officers recovered 10 kilograms of cocaine, 1,000 pressed fentanyl pills, $200,000 in cash and nearly a dozen guns.

The defendants, 64 of whom are charged in an indictment, come from nine different cliques within the gang, and range in age from 16 to 59. Sini said some were U.S. citizens or had legal status, while others did not.

In addition to 66 members of the gang, prosecutors said they arrested another 30 drug distributors.

The indictment charges the gang members over the murders of teen girls Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens on Long Island in 2016, killings that garnered national attention.

Ray Donovan, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s special agent in charge for New York, said law enforcement studied the gang’s rules and infrastructure for the bust.

Sini acknowledged the gang had not been eradicated from the area. 

“Look, we’re very far along; the pressure on them is extraordinary,” he said. “Was this a major blow against MS-13 in the region? Absolutely. Is the battle over? Absolutely not.” 

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