The gang known as MS-13 used a remote California farm city as a base from which they engaged in criminal activity in places as far away as New York, according to prosecutors who filed charges against more than 20 alleged members. The charges came after a lengthy investigation into drug trafficking in Fresno County and were announced during an Aug. 31 press conference. The gang is said to have taken advantage of the scant resources available to law enforcement in the city of Mendota to conduct business without drawing unwanted attention.
Prosecutors believe that MS-13 members have been involved in at least a dozen murders in Fresno County murders since 2016. However, gathering evidence against a gang notorious for using extreme violence against informers has been difficult for police. Their task is especially difficult because many of those living in California's Central Valley are from El Salvador and nearly all of them are Hispanic.
Police say that they were able to overcome these challenges and uncover evidence linking the gang to assaults and murders in other states as well as California during an operation named Blue Inferno. These discoveries have prompted police departments in these states to begin their own investigations into MS-13 gang activities according to a U.S. attorney who attended the press conference.
The penalties for violent crimes like murder can be extremely severe, and some criminal defense attorneys may seek a swift settlement when presented with facts like these. The prospect of spending decades in prison can strain even the deepest loyalties, and prosecutors will generally be able to find at least one suspect willing to cooperate when multiple defendants are accused of committing serious crimes. In situations like these, defense attorneys may remind their clients that the most appealing offers are generally made to those who step forward first.
Source: ABC News, "MS-13 gang used California farm town as a base for crime", Sudhin Thanawala, Associated Press, Aug. 31, 2018