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,” Homan added.
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:
201 Cell Phones
38 Businesses Closed
4 Industrial Trucks
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. 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.