Law enforcement officials in Chelsea.MARIA SACCHETTI/GLOBE STAFF

Federal, state and local law enforcement officers made a run at Boston area’s MS-13 problem on Friday morning, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

An operation took place in East Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Revere and Somerville, netting 56 leaders of MS-13 on federal racketeering conspiracy charges related to murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, and drug trafficking. Individuals were arrested on drug trafficking, firearms violation, immigration offenses and fraudulent documents charges.

On Friday morning, over 400 federal, state and local law enforcement officers kicked in doors and rounded up the gang members whose core motto is “kill, rape, control.”

According to U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office, in 2012 MS-13 became the first, and remains the only, street gang to be designated by the United States government as a “transnational criminal organization.”


Ortiz said that MS-13 members and associates often commit murders and attempted murders using machetes, knives and chains in order to intimidate rival gang members.

Today, MS-13 is one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States, and is an international criminal organization with over 6,000 members in the United States, with a presence in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia, as well as over 30,000 members internationally, mostly in El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala, accroding to Ortiz's office.

In Massachusetts, MS-13 is largely composed of immigrants and descendants of immigrants from El Salvador and has members operating throughout the Commonwealth, with higher concentrations in Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, Lynn, Revere and Somerville.

They are said to have been heavily involved in cocaine, heroin and marijuana distribution, as well as robberies and other violent crimes throughout the state.

During the course of the investigation, officials allege that MS-13 actively recruited prospective members, known as “paros,” inside local high schools from communities with significant Central America immigrant populations , including Chelsea High School, East Boston High School and Everett High School.

Prospective members are typically 14 or 15 years old. Under the strict rules of MS-13, as communicated to the local “cliques” by the leaders of MS-13 in El Salvador, these prospective members must engage in significant violent criminal activity on behalf of the criminal organization —usually the killing of a rival gang member — in order to become a full-fledged member of MS-13, known as a “homeboy.”

The indictment alleges that several of the defendants are responsible for the murders of at least five people since 2014, in Chelsea and East Boston, as well as the attempted murder of at least 14 people.

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