Ninety-six members and associates of the ultra-violent street gang MS-13 have been arrested in what Suffolk County prosecutors are calling the largest take down targeting the gang in New York State history.
The bust was the result of a nearly two-year joint investigation between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, officials announced Friday. The probe culminated in a grand jury indictment against 45 gang members and 19 associates. The role of the other 32 suspects nabbed in the dragnet was not immediately clear.
“Our message is simple: to the residents of Suffolk County, we will do what it takes to protect our communities; not one of us should have to live amongst these ruthless gang members,” District Attorney Tim Sini said. “To MS-13: we are coming for you.”
The investigation thwarted seven alleged murder plots by charging defendants for conspiracies to commit murder before the planned slayings occurred, authorities said. Charges also included drug trafficking, weapons possession and sales, gang violence, and other offenses.
The larger probe netted more than 230 MS-13 gang members worldwide. Suffolk authorities said they used about 215 court-authorized wiretaps as a part of the investigation.
Authorities said the bust ended the so-called New York Program, which was orchestrated by the leadership of MS-13 in El Salvador to develop a greater presence on LI. The defendants charged in the indictment include the leadership and members of nine MS-13 cliques that operate on the Island.
The investigation revealed that MS-13 gang members allegedly sold cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and marijuana, and sent the proceeds to gang leaders in El Salvador to purchase weapons, ammunition, and additional drugs, prosecutors said. Investigators seized more than 10 kilograms of cocaine, quantities of heroin and marijuana, more than 1,000 counterfeit pills that appeared to be oxycodone but were found to be fentanyl, authorities said.
MS-13 has been the target of an intense crackdown since members were involved in a quadruple murder in Central Islip in 2017. President Donald Trump twice visited Long Island specifically to discuss efforts to eradicate the gang, as did former U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions. The gang, which was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s and is run from El Salvador, has been blamed for dozens of murders in Nassau and Suffolk counties over the years.
“Today’s arrests close the book on MS-13’s attempt to build an arsenal of brutality on the East Coast,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan. “For over two years, a wiretap investigation provided critical insight into MS-13’s goals of recruitment, expansion, brutality, violence and rule. … This announcement is a message to MS-13 leaders in El Salvador and LA that New York will not be your home.”
Related Story: MS-13 Morphing After Crackdown, Experts Say