22 Los Angeles-based MS-13 gang members charged in series of grisly murders

Federal authorities on Monday announced charges filed against 22 people linked to the MS-13 transnational gang, most of whom allegedly participated in a series of murders, including several slayings in which victims were hacked to death with machetes in the Angeles National Forest.

A 12-count indictment unsealed Monday afternoon alleges that members and associates of the gang murdered seven people over the last two years. The indictment charges gang leaders who allegedly authorized and coordinated the murders. Also charged are gang members who allegedly murdered and attempted to murder rival gang members, those who were perceived to be cooperating with law enforcement, and, in one instance, a homeless man who was temporarily living in a park controlled by the gang.

The indictment focuses on a particularly violent subset of the gang known as the Fulton clique, which operates in the San Fernando Valley and has recently seen an influx of young immigrants from Central America. Under the influence of these young gangsters, younger associates who wanted to become members of MS-13 were "required to kill an MS-13 rival or someone perceived to be adverse to MS-13 to be initiated into MS-13," according to the indictment.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the indictment outlined one of the killings that occurred on March 6, 2017, when a rival gang member was abducted and driven to a remote portion of the Angeles National Forest, where six people attacked him with a machete.

"The victim was dismembered, and his body parts were thrown into a canyon after one of the defendants allegedly cut the heart out of the victim's body,'' according to federal prosecutors.

The arrests were the culmination of an investigation by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Gangs, which includes the FBI, Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Over the past year, the other 18 defendants named in the indictment were taken into custody, some on state charges and some on federal charges previously filed. The superseding indictment announced today, which was returned by a federal grand jury on July 9, adds 15 defendants to an indictment filed in March.

"We have now taken off the streets nearly two dozen people associated with the most violent arm of MS-13 in Los Angeles, where the gang is believed to have killed 24 people over the past two years," said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. "This investigation has been an unqualified success. The collaborative law enforcement effort solved several murder cases and dealt a severe blow to members of the gang who engaged in acts of brutality not seen in the region for over 20 years."

CNS contributed to this report.