The Associated Press
GREENBELT, Maryland- Authorities on Wednesday unsealed a federal indictment that added murder, witness tampering and other charges to a racketeering case against alleged members of the Hispanic gang, MS-13.The superseding indictment against 22 people came as federal and local investigators from an anti-gang task force made additional arrests and executed search warrants around the Washington region early Wednesday.
Federal officials first arrested 19 people in August, accused them of racketeering for being part of the increasingly violent street gang. That charge is usually reserved for organized crime.
The group, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, originated in Los Angeles among Central American immigrants. An estimated 10,000 MS-13 members are in the country, with the highest concentrations in Los Angeles, New York, northern Virginia and Maryland, federal authorities say.
The new indictment, filed under seal April 4, includes adds on 31 new counts against various alleged MS-13 members. The new charges linked to the racketeering charge include six murders in Maryland and the January 2005 killing of a man in Virginia.
Several assaults, gun charges, kidnappings, and attempted murders were also added to the charges.
Among the three new defendants are two women. The 19 people in the original indictment were all men. Most of those accused are in their 20s, and the majority are from Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
All 22 charged with racketeering face a possible life sentence if convicted. Nine could be sentenced to death if convicted of murder or witness tampering while taking part in racketeering.