Small Wars Journal

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 21: 96 MS-13 Members and Associates, Including the Leaders of 9 Cliques, Charged in Long Island

Thu, 01/09/2020 - 4:25am

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 21: 96 MS-13 Members and Associates, Including the Leaders of 9 Cliques, Charged in Long Island

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker

The largest anti-gang operation targeting MS-13 in New York State history culminated in 96 defendants indicted in Suffolk County, Long Island and a total of 230 arrests of gang members and associates throughout the United States and in El Salvador. Over 10 MS-13 cliques operate in Suffolk County, and leaders of 9 of those cliques were indicted as a result of a two-year, multiagency investigation, which significantly impacts the ‘New York Program’ of the transnational gang.[1]

1

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sinai seeking public support for gang enforcement. (Source: Suffolk County, NY District Attorney’s Office, https://suffolkcountyny.gov/da.)

Key Information: Robert Brodsky, “96 MS-13 gang members, associates charged in LI investigation, DA says.” Newsday. 20 December 2019, https://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/ms-13-arrests-1.39680654:

Nearly 100 MS-13 members and associates, including the leaders of nine local cliques, have been charged in the largest state takedown of the dangerous street gang that terrorized parts of Long Island for years, Suffolk officials announced Friday.

The 23-month investigation thwarted seven murder plots and dismantled the so-called “New York Program,” which was launched by the gang’s El Salvadoran-based leadership to develop a foothold on Long Island, officials said Friday at news conference in Riverhead. But officials also acknowledged the gang is not eradicated and the investigation must continue…

The sprawling and widespread investigation, led by the Long Island Gang Task Force, spanned 13 states and El Salvador, and it included court-authorized wiretaps on more than 200 phone lines…

In total, law enforcement officials arrested the leaders of nine MS-13 cliques, “decimating” groups based in Brentwood, Central Islip and Jamaica, Queens, Sini said. Each of the local cliques, Sini said, has an affiliate group of the same name based in El Salvador.

Key Information: Alan Feuer, “MS-13 Gang: 96 Charged in Sweeping Crackdown on Long Island.” New York Times. 20 December 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/20/nyregion/ms-13-long-island.html:

Over the course of 150 pages, the indictment described a remarkably vast criminal enterprise. There were seven murder plots with guns, machetes and Molotov cocktails. There were assaults in bars, meetings in local bakeries and gang initiations with 13-second beatings.

Men with nicknames like Droop and Broccoli were said to have dealt in crack cocaine, fentanyl and oxycodone. Gang members had to adhere to a 20-point list of rules and regulations, including one that stated that to move up in the ranks, members had to commit at least four murders…

Among those charged on Friday were nine top leaders of the gang who were part of what was known as the New York Program, a strategic initiative that MS-13 launched from its home base in El Salvador to strengthen its foothold in the New York area and to spread the group’s operations along the Eastern Seaboard, law enforcement officials said.

Key Information: Lisa Finn, “96 ‘Ruthless’ MS-13 Gang Members Nabbed In Massive Takedown On LI.” Patch (Riverhead). 20 December 2019, https://patch.com/new-york/riverhead/96-ruthless-ms-13-gang-members-nabbed-massive-takedown-li:

A table piled high with a machete, guns, and massive bags of cocaine and crack bore brutal testament to what officials called Friday the largest takedown of MS-13 gang members in United States history — with 96 defendants indicted and a total of 230 arrests of MS-13 gang members and associates in New York, throughout the United States, and El Salvador, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini…

During the investigation, more than 215 phone numbers were the focus of court-authorized wiretapping over two years, “one of the largest wiretap investigations of gang operations in the United States,” Sini said.

Those charged included the leadership and members of nine MS-13 cliques operating on Long Island including the Brentwood Locotes Salvatrucha, or “BLS”, Coronado, Guanaco, Huntington Criminales Locotes Salvatrucha, or “HCLS”, Jamaica Locotes Salvatrucha, or “JLS”, Leeward Locotes Salvatrucha, “Leeward”, Park View Locotes Salvatrucha, or “PVLS”, Carleton, or “KLS”, and Western, Sini said…

Key Information: Sommer Brokaw, “N.Y. prosecutors charge nearly 100 alleged MS-13 gang members, associates.” UPI. 21 December 2019, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2019/12/21/NY-prosecutors-charge-nearly-100-alleged-MS-13-gang-members-associates/4381576939314/?spt=su&or=btn_tw:

“This operation helped end the New York program, which was orchestrated by the leadership of MS-13 in El Salvador to develop a greater presence here on Long Island,” [Suffolk County District Attorney] Sini said. “Additionally, as a result of the reliable intelligence generated throughout this investigation law enforcement prevented countless acts of violence over the past 23 months including seven murder plots rights here in Suffolk County.”

Third Generation Gang Analysis

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is a transnational gang with roots in Los Angeles, California and a significant presence in El Salvador where the gang exerts influence over cliques throughout the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA) and in the United States.[2] The gang’s criminal network is one where influence is spread across its transnational hubs.[3] Competition and co-operation among cliques and clusters of cliques (known as programs) yields a degree of organizational variation.[4] A degree of autonomy is present in each geographical area, but some gang activities are overseen by leadership in Los Angeles or El Salvador. The ‘New York Program’—and the various cliques in the New York Region—is largely under the influence of leadership in El Salvador.[5] The leaders—or palabreros—are allegedly key players linked to “the New York Program, a strategic initiative that MS-13 launched from its home base in El Salvador to strengthen its foothold in the New York area and to spread the group’s operations along the Eastern Seaboard.”[6]

Palabreros are the gang’s leaders or shot callers. The primera palabra (first word) is the clique (clica) leader; the segunda palabra (second word) in some cliques acts as a second in command. The nine palabreros indicted in this investigation are believed to have been tasked by MS-13 leadership in El Salvador to consolidate and grow Salvadoran influence and control on the gang’s activities on Long Island. This Long Island base could then be used to consolidate Salvadoran control throughout the East Coast.[7] Long Island was viewed as a strategic territory for the gang.[8]

Large-scale indictments, such as those against the Fultons (Fulton Locos Salvatruchos-FLS) in Los Angeles in July 2019 and the bi-national Operation Raging Bull (in 2007) in El Salvador and the US that netted 267 mareros (MS-13 gangsters) erode the gang’s influence over the short-term but the gang may adapt to the immediate power vacuum empowering different nodes within its network.[9]  Taking out nine leaders (palabreros) does not mean the gang is wiped out, but it is a major blow to the organization. Arresting 96 mareros and associates amplifies that.  The ability to restructure depends upon the roles of the other 87 persons indicted in the organization’s network. In addition, officials disclosed that the MS-13 is trying to move members from other states to Suffolk County to reconstitute its ranks.[10]

Nevertheless, this is a major law enforcement success. It directly builds upon ongoing New York State initiatives to combat MS-13 gang violence on Long Island with over $45 million dollars invested in these activities through October 2018.[11] The initiatives include the formation of a Gang Unit within the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office—composed of  “Assistant District Attorneys and Detective Investigators”—working in coordination “with a multitude of law enforcement agencies, including local, state and federal agencies” targeting MS-13 and other gangs.[12]

The recent indictment of the 96 MS-13 members is an example of ongoing law enforcement and policing operations against the gang in Suffolk County, Long Island, with an earlier indictment in July 2017 targeting 17 members and associates.[13] Suffolk County operations directed at MS-13 are, in turn, being coordinated across Long Island with gang suppression activities also actively taking place in Nassau County as well as Brooklyn and Queens in New York City.[14] This, in effect, represents a concerted New York State and US Federal counter-strategic initiative against the ‘New York Program’ promoted by the MS-13 leadership in El Salvador.

End Notes

[1] According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the investigation was conducted by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in collaboration with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service, the New York State Office of the Attorney General, the New York State Police, the Suffolk County Police Department, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, the Nassau County Police Department, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, the Hempstead Village Police Department, Port Washington Police Department and the Rockville Centre Police Department. See Suffolk County, NY Police Department, Facebook Feed, 20 December 2019, https://www.facebook.com/SuffolkPD/?eid=ARCo5OdwfWXRhgflNhYfsqXZUCCs5_yjecfFth1Ed5pSVDjOy69wJ606bMScyJYWqGDkAOn747o_4GKD.

[2] Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Law Enforcement Primer.” National Academy Associate (Quantico, FBI National Academy Associates). March/April 2018, https://www.fbinaa.org/FBINAA/Associate/MARAPR2018_Feature_1.aspx.

[3] See John P. Sullivan and Samuel Logan, “MS-13 Leadership: Networks of Influence.” The Counter Terrorist . August/September 2010, https://www.academia.edu/1123626/MS-13_Leadership_Networks_of_Influence.

[4] Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 13: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Command and Control (C2) Geographic Variations.” Small Wars Journal. 29 January 2019, https://smallwarsjournal.com/index.php/jrnl/art/third-generation-gangs-strategic-note-no-13-mara-salvatrucha-ms-13-command-and-control-c2.

[5] The officials announcing the Suffolk County indictments report strong links between MS-13’s Long Island leadership and El Salvador.  According to Ray Donovan, a DEA special agent in charge, “We’ve learned that through this investigation MS-13 had plans for establishing an East Coast foundation here in New York for the gang, that will never happen,” Lorena Mongelli, Larry Celona, and Tina Moore, “Massive MS-13 bust: Officials charge 96 members in gang takedown.” New York Post. 20 December 2019, https://nypost.com/2019/12/20/massive-ms-13-bust-officials-charge-96-members-in-gang-takedown/.

[6] Alan Feuer, “MS-13 Gang: 96 Charged in Sweeping Crackdown on Long Island.” New York Times. 20 December 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/20/nyregion/ms-13-long-island.html.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Carmen Graciela Díaz, “Serie especial: Cómo Long Island se convirtió en un bastión de la Mara Salvatrucha.” Canal 41; Univision Nueva York. 18 September 2017, https://www.univision.com/local/nueva-york-wxtv/serie-especial-como-long-island-se-convirtio-en-un-bastion-de-la-mara-salvatrucha.

[9] See Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 13: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Command and Control (C2) Geographic Variations.” Small Wars Journal. 29 January 2019 and “22 MS-13 Members and Associates Charged Federally in ICE’s MS-13 Targeted ‘Operation Raging Bull’ Which Netted a Total of 267 Arrests.” Washington, DC: US Department of Justice. 16 November 2017, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/22-ms-13-members-and-associates-charged-federally-ice-s-ms-13-targeted-operation-raging-bull.

[10] “Prosecutors announce MS-13 ‘rendered inoperable’ in Suffolk County.” Eyewitness News, ABC 7, New York. 20 December 2019, https://abc7ny.com/prosecutors-announce-ms-13-rendered-inoperable-in-suffolk/5771962/.

[11] “Governor Cuomo Announces $20 Million to Combat MS-13 Gang Violence on Long Island.” New York State. 28 October 2018, https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-20-million-combat-ms-13-gang-violence-long-island.

[12] “Eradicating Gangs.” Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. 22 December 2019 (Access), https://suffolkcountyny.gov/da/Initiatives/Eradicating-Gangs.

[13] “MS-13 Gang Members Indicted in New York for Murder of Four Young Men in Park and Killing of Rival at Deli.” Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. 19 July 2019, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/ms-13-gang-members-indicted-new-york-murder-four-young-men-park-and-killing-rival-deli.

[14] Recent indictments and arrests taking place in Long Island in addition to those in Suffolk County include “MS-13 Gang Members Indicted for Murder of 16-Year-Old Victim in Alley Pond Park in Queens.” Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York. 12 September 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-edny/pr/ms-13-gang-members-indicted-murder-16-year-old-victim-alley-pond-park-queens, Robert Gearty, “MS-13 gang members arrested after body unearthed in Long Island shallow grave.” Fox News. 7 June 2019, https://www.foxnews.com/us/ms-13-gang-arrested-body-long-island, and Ali Winston, “Queens Subway Shooting: MS-13 Member Is Arrested, Police Say.” New York Times. 4 February 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/04/nyregion/subway-shooting-ms13-gang.html.

Sources

Robert Brodsky, “96 MS-13 gang members, associates charged in LI investigation, DA says.” Newsday. 20 December 2019, https://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/ms-13-arrests-1.39680654.

Sommer Brokaw, “N.Y. prosecutors charge nearly 100 alleged MS-13 gang members, associates.” UPI. 21 December 2019, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2019/12/21/NY-prosecutors-charge-nearly-100-alleged-MS-13-gang-members-associates/4381576939314/?spt=su&or=btn_tw.

Alan Feuer, “MS-13 Gang: 96 Charged in Sweeping Crackdown on Long Island.” New York Times. 20 December 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/20/nyregion/ms-13-long-island.html.

Lisa Finn, “96 ‘Ruthless’ MS-13 Gang Members Nabbed In Massive Takedown On LI.” Patch (Riverhead). 20 December 2019, https://patch.com/new-york/riverhead/96-ruthless-ms-13-gang-members-nabbed-massive-takedown-li.

Lorena Mongelli, Larry Celona, and Tina Moore, “Massive MS-13 bust: Officials charge 96 members in gang takedown.” New York Post. 20 December 2019, https://nypost.com/2019/12/20/massive-ms-13-bust-officials-charge-96-members-in-gang-takedown/.

“Prosecutors announce MS-13 ‘rendered inoperable’ in Suffolk County.” Eyewitness News, ABC 7, New York. 20 December 2019, https://abc7ny.com/prosecutors-announce-ms-13-rendered-inoperable-in-suffolk/5771962/.

Key Words: Clicas; Brentwood Locotes Salvatrucha (BLS); Carleton (KLS); Coronado, Guanaco, Huntington Criminales Locotes Salvatrucha (HCLS); Jamaica Locotes Salvatrucha (JLS); Leeward Locotes Salvatrucha (Leeward); Mara Salvatrucha; MS-13; New York Program; Park View Locotes Salvatrucha (PVLS); Western

Additional Reading

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 13: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Command and Control (C2) Geographic Variations.” Small Wars Journal, 29 January 2019.

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 18: MS-13 Indictments Document Barbarization and Ritual Murders In Los Angeles.” Small Wars Journal, 23 July 2019.

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, "Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13): A Law Enforcement Primer.” National Academy Associate (Quantico, FBI National Academy Associates), March/April 2018.

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Dr. John P. Sullivan was a career police officer. He is an honorably retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, specializing in emergency operations, transit policing, counterterrorism, and intelligence. He is currently an Instructor in the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California. Sullivan received a lifetime achievement award from the National Fusion Center Association in November 2018 for his contributions to the national network of intelligence fusion centers. He completed the CREATE Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism at the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research, and a PhD from the Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya). His doctoral thesis was “Mexico’s Drug War: Cartels, Gangs, Sovereignty and the Network State.” He can be reached at jpsullivan@smallwarsjournal.com.

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is Director of Research and Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, and an adjunct research professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico. He has well over 500 publications—including about 40 books as co-author, editor, and co-editor—and can be reached at docbunker@smallwarsjournal.com .