One of the most infamous gangs in the world is extorting Latino-owned businesses in a county on the outskirts of Washington D.C., a local law enforcement official warned federal lawmakers Wednesday.
Members of MS-13, a transnational gang based in El Salvador, have long demanded payments from illegal businesses that otherwise faced the threat of violence. A sheriff in Montgomery County, Md., believes they’re expanding the list of extortion targets to legitimate businesses.
“We have heard from community members that the gangs, which historically extorted money solely from illicit businesses such as ‘bordellos’ and unlicensed ‘cantinas,’ are now collecting ‘rent’ from legitimate Latino business owners and residents in certain apartment complexes,” Thomas Manger, the county’s chief of police, told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. “In some instances, if the victims of this extortion refuse to pay the fee demanded by the gang, the gang members return with detailed information on the intended victims’ family members still living in Central America.”
The Trump administration has stepped up efforts to deport the gang members, to the chagrin of El Salvadoran leaders. “This clearly affects El Salvador. We already have a climate of violence in the country that we are combating,” Hector Antonio Rodriguez, the director of the country’s immigration agency, told the Washington Post. “If gang members return, of course this worries us.”
Originally published by the Washington Examiner.