Machetes and mayhem: DoJ unveils MS-13 racketeering and murder indictment

Bet on this becoming a White House talking point by the end of the day. The Department of Justice unveiled an indictment against a virulent MS-13 gang in Los Angeles for racketeering and murder, but even those charges understate the bloodthirsty nature of the crimes. NBC News provides a taste of what will come in the lead:

Citing a gruesome series of killings in Los Angeles in which one victim was dismembered and whose heart was cut out, a federal grand jury has indicted 22 alleged members or associates of the notorious MS-13 gang on charges that include racketeering and murder.

Five of the seven killings outlined in a new indictment involved the victims’ bodies being dumped in Angeles National Forest, according to court documents.

The 78-page grand jury indictment says 22 alleged members and associates of the MS-13 Fulton clique, based in the Los Angeles suburbs of the San Fernando Valley, engaged in common street gang business: narcotics sales, robberies, burglaries and extortion schemes.

But the indictment also details how those charged also used horrific violence to control members, protect territory and intimidate rivals.

One of the victims had his heart hacked out of his body for the street crime of crossing out MS-13 graffiti, the local NBC affiliate explains. Others had also been murdered by machete and had their bodies dumped in canyons. It’s part of what made the Fulton clique more of a priority to law enforcement, both local and federal, than the other 20-odd MS-13 gangs in the area.

What made them more violent? The indictment alleges that their allegiance to the “Mexican Mafia” forced them to earn more from their racketeering, and thus had to get more ruthless in protecting their turf:

The indictment also suggests that Fulton group operated differently from other MS-13 cliques in Los Angeles.

“MS-13 in Los Angeles was distinct from MS-13 cliques in other parts of the country, because in Los Angeles, MS-13 had to pay extortionate rent payments to the Mexican Mafia, to which MS-13 swore fealty,” the indictment states.

The FBI and local authorities have more work to do in clearing out MS-13 cells. According to the DoJ, over 10,000 MS-13 gang members are operating in the US, many if not most of them after having gained illegal entry. Their crimes make headlines, and their presence bolsters the general consensus that border security needs a lot more infrastructure to prevent illegal immigration.

That’s what makes this story useful to the White House. Just a day ago, the administration released a new rule that would moot almost all asylum requests from Central America, which prompted some pushback yesterday on both the policy itself and whether Donald Trump has the authority to implement it. Stories like this won’t have an impact on the legal issues, but it will make Trump’s policy direction look more rational than the current status quo.

Expect to hear from Trump himself about this indictment, at least on his Twitter feed. It’s a much better story than a couple of the threads Trump’s tweeting about this week, much more useful to his core policy goals as well, and a handy way to change the subject.