COLUMBUS (WCMH/WKBN) — Multiple members of the MS-13 gang have been arrested in central Ohio and Indiana, according to federal authorities.
MS-13 is a multi-national criminal organization primarily composed of immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The gang has become one of the largest and most violent criminal organizations in the U.S., with more than 10,000 members that operate in at least 40 states.
Federal charges were filed against a total of 15 alleged MS-13 members, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice. Ten were in Columbus.
Ten were charged by a grand jury with conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to commit money laundering and use of a firearm during a crime of violence. Five others were charged in criminal complaints with reentering the U.S. after deportation. Two of the 15 remain fugitives.
The defendants allegedly conspired to commit extortion through force, violence or fear to intimidate victims into paying money to the defendants. The money would be sent by wire to MS-13 and associates in El Salvador, the release said.
The release added that the money was used to buy items that the gang uses in criminal activity such as narcotics, provide financial support to gang members, including those incarcerated, and aid families of dead gang members.
The department urged anyone who has been a victim of the alleged crimes or has additional information about the gang to call the FBI hotline at 614-849-1765. Callers can remain anonymous.