Prosecutors believe they will have rendered the central American MS-13 gang “inoperable” in New York’s Suffolk after they announce charges against 96 of the gang’s members.
Authorities plan to announce the full list of charges against the gang on Friday afternoon, according to ABC News. The investigation included a two-year multi-agency effort that thwarted seven alleged murder plots, according to prosecutors who spoke on the matter.
Prosecutors believe the charges will constitute the largest gang takedown in New York’s history.
In a media advisory, the spokeswoman for Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini said the investigation “has dealt significant blow to MS-13 leadership in Long Island.”
In addition to the 96 MS-13 members charged in New York, more than 100 additional arrests were carried out by the DEA
MS-13 was originally formed in Southern California with members from El Salvador. Prosecutors in Long Island have warned since June of 2017 that the gang has set its sights to expand to New York.
On one occasion MS-13 members reportedly threatened to target members of the NYPD. Their reported targeting of the NYPD even included spying on the homes of its police officers. While the threats were not fully verified, the police agency went on high alert.
Prosecutors are reportedly expected to announce how MS-13 recruited members from surrounding states to fill the gang’s ranks in Suffolk County.
Part of the gang’s expansion to Long Island included the 2016 murders of 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas and 15-year-old Nisa Mickens. Brothers Alexi Saenz and Jairo Saenz were previously charged in connection to six murders, including the killings of Cuevas and Mickens.
If convicted, the brothers could face life in prison or the death penalty, following U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr’s decision to reinstate the death penalty in July, 2019.
The killings previously caught the attention of President Donald Trump, whose presidential platform has included increased border security, including against transnational gangs like the MS-13.
“They kidnap, they extort, they rape and they rob. They prey on children, they shouldn’t be here,” Trump said during a July 2017 visit to Suffolk County. “It’s time for every member of MS-13 to be in fear. Look over their shoulder. Look in their rear view mirror, because ICE and its partners are coming hard, and we’re coming strong.”
Later in 2017 Trump advocated deporting MS-13 members entirely, rather than adjudicating their cases in the U.S.
“We will throw you the hell out of the country. Somehow I like it better than jail, where we’d just have to take care of them. Who the hell wants to take care of them?” Trump said.
Members of the gang have been stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border in the past and deported.