The Justice Department announced Wednesday several sex trafficking arrests targeting the violent street gang MS-13.
Eleven members or associates of the gang that originated in El Salvador and now operates in nearly every U.S. state were arrested on charges in northern Virginia and Maryland related to sexual exploitation and physical abuse of a minor, according to the Justice Department.
“Sex traffickers often prey upon the most vulnerable victims in our society, and when combined with the horrific abuses of a gang like MS-13, the effects can be devastating,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said about the announcement. “I have personally handled the prosecution of MS-13 members in northern Virginia for over a decade, including for gang-controlled sex trafficking, and I have led meaningful outreach efforts with the Hispanic community in order to raise public awareness of these serious threats.”
Court documents show that in August 2018, a 13-year-old minor ran away from home in northern Virginia and was introduced to MS-13 gang members. She was then reportedly beaten 26 times with a baseball bat as part of a gang ritual before being sex trafficked across Virginia and Maryland for cash and drugs. At one point, documents show men lined up in the woods behind an apartment complex to rape the minor and gave her drugs in return.
The charges filed against the 11 people allegedly involved include sex trafficking of a minor, assault, and violent crime in the aid of racketeering activity through assault with a dangerous weapon.
Each defendant charged with the sex trafficking of a minor faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in jail and a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.
Last month, the Justice Department announced it filed terrorism charges against an MS-13 member, and another is facing the death penalty as a result of a joint task force initiative cracking down on the gang.
President Trump touted the news, calling it a “historic operation” to arrest and indict “dozens of savage MS-13 members.”
President @realDonaldTrump: "We've just concluded a historic operation leading to the arrest and indictment of dozens of savage MS-13 members and leaders all across the country." pic.twitter.com/vnVfiAjYra
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 15, 2020
Author: Andrew Mark Miller
Source: Washington Examiner: DOJ announces sex trafficking charges against 11 MS-13 gang members and associates