LOS ANGELES, March 19 (UPI) -- Los Angeles police said they arrested 20 reputed members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang for the alleged extortion of food-truck operators at construction sites.
The Los Angeles Police Department's Hollywood Patrol Division arrested the 20 defendants -- including four women -- in a series of raids early Monday after a year-long investigation, the Los Angeles Times reported.
They were all charged with extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion and were being held on bail ranging from $2 million to $3 million.
Police said the members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang -- or MS-13, which has roots in El Salvador -- organized the shakedown of food trucks serving blue-collar workers at construction sites in the Hollywood area.
The indictment alleges one defendant, identified as Marlon Juarez, demanded food-truck operator Dany Lara pay "rent" if he wanted to continue operating in the gang's territory. Lara was allegedly forced to pay a rent of $30 to $50 each week and to give gang members free food.
In another instance, one defendant, identified as Juan Gomez, threatened to kill food-truck operator Juan Mendieta if he and his employees did not pay rent, the court documents read.