Thirteen alleged members of the MS-13 gang were arrested in Central Ohio and Indiana on Tuesday morning.
U.S. State Attorney Ben Glassman says the trans-national gang has been in Ohio since at least 2010. He says the gang is comprised of small cliques located throughout the country who take orders from their headquarters in El Salvador.
Authorities say MS-13 has more than 10,000 members and associates operating in at least 40 states.
Generally, Glassman says, gang members in the U.S. target the Latino community.
“The idea here is that this kind of enforcement action will make Columbus a safer place for our Latino community and for everyone,” Glassman says.
Ten of the men were charged by a federal grand jury on either conspiracy charges to commit extortion, launder money or the use of a firearm during a violent crime. Another three were charged for crimes related to federal immigration. Two more suspects are still at large.
"President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to reduce crime and take down transnational criminal organizations, and we will be relentless in our pursuit of these objectives," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement. "Today's charges are our next step toward making this country safer by taking MS-13 off of our streets for good.”
All but two of the men are undocumented, but Glassman clarified that’s not why they were arrested.
"We are not targeting any of these defendants because of their immigration status,” he says.
Glassman says the gang is notoriously violent and worries victims will be apprehensive to speak out for fear of retaliation. In June, authorities in Pike County warned MS-13 was planning to target “snitches” who had informed on them.