NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - A Nassau County, Long Island, grand jury indicted 17 people on charges including murder, conspiracy, and drug trafficking. All of them are suspected members and associates of the vicious MS-13 gang. The defendants were arraigned in court in Mineola on Thursday.
Local, state, federal and international law enforcement officials hope these arrests will dismantle the street gang.
"We prevented violent attacks on Long Island, uncovered a structured network of MS-13 operations in New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Texas, from within a Mississippi prison cell, and in countries around the globe," Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said Thursday.
The work of more than 20 agencies prevented at least three slayings on Long Island, New Jersey, and Maryland, officials said. The operation also led to the arrests of two men linked to the murder of Angel Soler, 15, whose brutally beaten body was discovered in Roosevelt in October.
In addition, the seven-month-long investigation found MS-13 was distributing close to $1 million worth of heroin.
MS-13 is divided into subgroups, called cliques, according to investigators. The Sailors and Hollywood are on Long Island but they report to leaders in El Salvador.
"These cliques' activities were directed by the gang leadership in El Salvador and advanced MS-13's goals of domination and intimidation," Singas said.
Also indicted but not publicly identified was the Northeast kingpin of the gang, whom officials say ordered beatings and murders.
Law enforcement is learning more about the gang's strategy, which includes members switching roles and responsibilities.
"Just as large corporations frequently relocate employees where their skills are needed most, MS-13 moves gang members after they commit crimes to evade law enforcement and to perform assigned work elsewhere," Singas said.
All of the defendants face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted on the top charges.