‘Caso Pilato,’ an 18 month investigation into the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) in El Salvador, with significant support from HSI San Salvador, concluded last week with the arrests of 53 MS-13 members and associates during Operation Tecana, the enforcement phase of the investigation.
“ICE has already sent a clear message to MS-13: you are not welcome in the United States and you will find no harbor here,” said ICE Acting Director Thomas D. Homan.
“These arrests, in coordination with our Salvadoran counterparts, show that they will find no harbor in El Salvador either.
“Working together with our international law enforcement partners, we will continue to dismantle MS-13 piece by piece wherever they attempt to victimize innocent communities.”
Caso Pilato and Operation Tecana focused on disrupting the capacity of the Stoners Locos Clique of MS-13 to obtain and utilize illicit proceeds.
The Stoners Locos had generated $1.9 million in illicit revenue since 2015 through crimes such as extortion, robbery, vehicle theft, money laundering, assault, and homicide.
In addition to the arrests, the following items were seized during Operation Tecana.
- $81,099 Cash
- 201 Cell Phones
- 70 Cars/Trucks
- 38 Businesses Closed
- 20 Computers
- 8 Firearms
- 5 Residences
- 4 Industrial Trucks
- 2 Buses
Both Operation Tecana and Caso Pilato contributed to the Salvadoran Policia Nacional Civil’s (PNC) national anti-gang enforcement strategy known as “Plan 300” targeting the MS-13 criminal network throughout El Salvador.
(Learn More about the ICE HSI National Gang Unit – Operation Community Shield. Courtesy of the IACP and YouTube.)
HSI’s Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) in El Salvador, comprised of HSI special agents working alongside Salvadoran law enforcement, have participated in numerous large-scale joint operations targeting MS-13.
During a previous related enforcement action in June 2017, HSI Los Angeles and ERO Task Force Officers arrested the highest member of the Stoners Locos Salvatruchos, Cesar Lopez Larios, alias Grenas, for illegal re-entry after deportation.
Lopez Larios had maintained functional control of the organization from Los Angeles.
After his subsequent removal to El Salvador, Lopez Larios was immediately arrested by the HSI TCIU San Salvador for conspiracy to commit homicide according to Salvadoran law.
In July 2017, the HSI TCIU San Salvador arrested Omar Stanley Mancia Ramirez, alias Junior, & Carlos Rigoberto Galvez Rodriguez, alias Calambre, in Metapan, El Salvador on ten outstanding arrest warrants for homicide in El Salvador.
Mancia Ramirez was identified as the functional leader of the organization following the capture of Lopez Larios and the fleeing of two other top leaders of the clique.
The arrest was made possible due to collaboration with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics & Law Enforcement in El Salvador
HSI’s National Gang Unit and Operation Community Shield
HSI’s National Gang Unit oversees HSI’s expansive transnational gang portfolio and enables special agents to bring the fight to these criminal enterprises through the development of uniform enforcement and intelligence-sharing strategies, including Operation Community Shield.
(See the ICE HSI National Gang Unit in Action. Courtesy of AiirSource Military and YouTube)
Caso Pilato and Operation Tecana are the latest example of ICE’s ongoing efforts, begun in 2005 under Operation Community Shield, to target violent gang members and their associates, eradicate the violence they inflict upon our communities and stop the cash flow to transnational organized crime groups.
Since 2005, HSI special agents working in conjunction with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have made more than 57,000 gang-related arrests.
Operation Community Shield is a global initiative in which HSI collaborates with federal, state and local law enforcement partners to combat the growth and proliferation of transnational criminal street gangs, prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs in the United States and abroad.
Through its domestic and international Operation Community Shield task forces, HSI leverages its worldwide presence and expansive statutory and civil enforcement authorities to mitigate the threats posted by these global networks, often through the tracing and seizing of cash, weapons and other illicit proceeds.
Partnerships with state, local, federal and international law enforcement agencies are critical to the success of HSI gang enforcement operations.
Law enforcement partners provide actionable intelligence which is critical in the targeting of gangs and their membership for enforcement actions.
HSI special agents use intelligence gathered from surge operations to pursue complex criminal enterprise investigations and federal prosecutions.
As part of Operation Community Shield, HSI has affected more than 4,600 criminal arrests and nearly 3,100 civil immigration arrests of MS-13 leaders, members and associates, including:
- Criminal arrests for Racketeering Influence Corrupt Organizations (RICO)
- Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR), and
- Gang conspiracy violations
This operation was investigated by HSI New York, HSI Long Island, HSI Baltimore, HSI DC, HSI Charlotte, HSI Newark, HSI Boston, HSI San Francisco, HSI San Jose, HSI Los Angeles, HSI Detroit, HSI Nashville, HSI Houston, and our state and local law enforcement partners.
In October 2012, HSI worked with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to designate MS-13 as the first transnational criminal street gang as a TCO.
As a result of the designation, any property or property interests in the United States, or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which MS-13 has an interest, are blocked.
HSI’s International Operations
HSI’s International Operations Division is the Department of Homeland Security’s largest investigative presence overseas.
The division’s attachés have a variety of duties, including relationship building and providing assistance on active investigations and repatriation efforts.
Attaché offices have a unique dual reporting structure. They report to HSI leadership, but are also responsible to U.S. ambassadors.
The mission of HSI International Operations is threefold:
- It supports domestic operations by coordinating investigations with foreign counterparts
- Disrupts criminal efforts to smuggle people and materials into the United States, and
- Builds international partnerships through outreach and training.
To report suspicious activity, call ICE’s 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or visit www.ice.gov.