Attorney General Jeff Sessions said federal agencies will now be able to go after the MS-13 gang the way the government went after famed gangster Al Capone -- with tax evasion laws. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday designated the MS-13 street gang as a "priority," giving the Department of Justice more tools with which to target members of the organization.
The designation means federal agencies like the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement can use tax, racketeering and firearms laws, in addition to drug laws, to investigate and prosecute the gang.
"Now they will go after MS-13 with a renewed vigor and a sharpened focus," Sessions said. "I am announcing that I have authorized them to use every lawful tool to investigate MS-13 -- not just our drug laws, but everything from [the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] to our tax laws to our firearms laws.
"Just like we took Al Capone off the streets with our tax laws, we will use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off of our streets."
Sessions, speaking to the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia, said "MS-13 members brutally rape, rob, extort and murder."
Police in Long Island, N.Y., have linked the gang -- also known as Mara Salvatrucha -- to at least 17 murders in the past 18 months in Suffolk County. MS-13 was formed in the 1980s in Los Angeles among an influx of Salvadoran immigrants fleeing civil war in Central America. The United States deported some of the gang members back to El Salvador, where the gang took hold there.
"With more than 40,000 members worldwide -- including 10,000 in the United States -- MS-13 threatens the lives and well-being of each and every family everywhere they infest," Sessions said.
President Donald Trump in July promised to "destroy" the gang and others like it.
"We will find you, we will arrest you, we will jail you and we will deport you," Trump said.