World News

Oct 11, 2012 1:42 PM by Associated Press

US targets violent central American street gang with sanctions

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is labeling a violent Central American street gang as an international criminal organization subject to U.S. government sanctions.

It's the first time the designation has been given to such a group.

The designation applies to an organization known as MS-13, which started as a local street gang composed largely of immigrants from El Salvador, mostly in the Los Angeles area. It's now believed to have as many as 10,000 members in 46 states and Central America. Members have been accused of crimes ranging from kidnapping and murder to drug smuggling and human trafficking.

The decision by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control allows federal authorities to seize assets associated with the organization. It also makes it more difficult for gang members to use banks and wire transfers to move profits from their crimes.

The director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, calls it a "powerful weapon" for his agency's ongoing effort to dismantle MS-13, which is considered one of the world's most dangerous gangs.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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