MS-13 gang members arrested in Texas

By Sara A. Carter and Kenneth Todd Ruiz, Staff Writers
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Five gang members from an international crime syndicate linked to threats against Border Patrol agents were arrested this week in Texas, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Between Saturday and Monday, border agents detained five members of Mara Salvatrucha -- an El Salvadoran gang also known as MS-13 -- in the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

During regular processing of detained illegal immigrants, law enforcement officials identified the individuals as MS-13 members, according to a Border Patrol news release.

One of those arrested is a 20-year-old gang member with a criminal history, including weapons violations in Los Angeles.

The Daily Bulletin reported earlier this month that MS-13 gang members were being paid by drug and human traffickers to assassinate border agents at the behest of drug cartels in Mexico, according to a confidential Department of Homeland Security memo.

Border Patrol agents interviewed by the Daily Bulletin said they feared the threats made against them but had little knowledge of the Dec. 21 memo sent to field offices.

"The memo was kept secret so the public wouldn't know how dangerous the border is," said a border agent under condition of anonymity. "Most of us patrol the border alone at night. Agents are primary targets for gangs -- like MS-13 -- drug cartels and bad apple Mexican soldiers. But MS-13 gang members are killers. Certainly we have something to be worried about."

MS-13 has more than 30 gang subsets in Los Angeles County and has a worldwide membership of 20,000 to 30,000 members. In Southern California, membership stretches as far east as San Bernardino, according to FBI officials.

The gang started in Los Angeles with refugees who fled from El Salvador in the early 1980s. Many of the gang's first members were formerly part of death squads in their native country.

In November 2004, the FBI created the National Gang Task Force, specifically to target MS-13. It was the first time in FBI history that a national team was formed to focus on one gang.

This weekend's arrests in Texas:

The first arrest, that of the man with weapons violations in Los Angeles, occurred Saturday seven miles west of the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville.

On Sunday, agents from out of Kingsville arrested another MS-13 member near Rivera, with a rap sheet for weapons violations, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. That same day a second gang member was arrested near Combes.

On Monday, agents arrested a fourth man north of Corpus Christi, while agents from the Rio Grande City Station captured a fifth.

All of the arrested gang members were detained, prosecuted for entering the United States illegally and processed for deportation proceedings, according to the Border Patrol.

Sara A. Carter can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (909) 483-8552.

Kenneth Todd Ruiz can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (909) 483-8555.