GREENBELT, Maryland- Nineteen alleged members of the gang MS-13, which originated in Central America, have been indicted on federal racketeering charges for crimes that include a string of homicides and attempted killings in suburban Maryland.
The indictments issued Thursday link the men to murders and other crimes from April 2003 through June of this year, including kidnappings, drive-by shootings and one murder. Six people were slain and gang members allegedly attempted to kill another five.
The alleged MS-13 members are accused of violating federal racketeering law and have not been charged with individual crimes such as homicide or assault.
MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, originated in El Salvador and spread to the United States with immigrants from Central America.
The charges come after a series of recent MS-13 related stabbings, including the stabbing of six teenagers in two separate incidents at a high school and shopping mall. Twelve people were arrested by county police for the attacks that prosecutors believe were carried out by MS-13 members.
Members of the MS-13 gang have tattoos symbolizing their membership or wear clothing with the number 13 and are known to beat recruits for 13 seconds. Members pay dues, which are used to help gang members in prison.
There are an estimated 10,000 MS-13 members in the United States, many in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, which have a large population of Central American immigrants.