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For The First Time, Trump Administration Uses Terrorism Charges Against An Alleged MS-13 Leader

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The Washington Post

For The First Time, Trump Administration Uses Terrorism Charges Against An Alleged MS-13 Leader

By Rachel Weiner

The Justice Department has charged an alleged leader in MS-13 as a terrorist, part of a string of new charges against members of the Salvadoran gang implicated in over a dozen murders.

Armando Eliu Melgar Diaz, 30, oversaw 20 gang cliques in 13 states, including New York, California, Maryland and Virginia, according to prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia. He lived on and off in Virginia starting in 2003 but has stayed in El Salvador since 2016, according to prosecutors.

“We’re using ‘terrorism,’ which gives us extra strength,” President Trump said in remarks at the White House on Wednesday. “We’ve done a great job with MS-13, but now we’re stepping it up even to a higher level.”

Melgar Diaz is in custody facing criminal charges in El Salvador, with no indication he will soon be extradited. But the Justice Department simultaneously announced 21 arrests in New York and Nevada involving MS-13 and the decision to seek the death penalty against an alleged leader in the gang who was arrested in 2017.

The charges against Melgar Diaz focus on the years 2016 to 2018, when prosecutors say he took profits from cocaine dealing in the D.C. suburbs and oversaw murders and kidnappings across the country as well as gun and drug smuggling from Mexico to El Salvador. Among the murders he authorized, according to the indictment, was the slaying of a 14-year-old girl in Houston believed to have cooperated with law enforcement. From May 2017 on, according to the indictment, he gained his leadership role in the gang, which put him in charge of one of three American “programs.”

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/for-the-first-time-trump-administration-uses-terrorism-charges-against-ms-13/2020/07/15/7079dd70-c6d3-11ea-a99f-3bbdffb1af38_story.html