96 MS-13 gang members, associates charged in major takedown
Officials have announced criminal charges against a total of 66 MS-13 gang members and 30 associates.
According to Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini, it marks the largest takedown of gang members and associates in New York state history.
Authorities from Suffolk County worked together with Nassau County, state and federal law enforcement for the nearly two-year long investigation.
They say they captured around 230 members and associates of MS-13. This includes the 96 members who were charged in the Riverhead courthouse Friday.
Authorities say they also brought down leaders of nine different cliques, including groups from Huntington, Brentwood and Central Islip.
Drugs and guns were also confiscated, as well as machetes, which investigators say are the gang's signature weapon.
Some of the charges the defendants are facing include drug trafficking, weapons possession, conspiracy to commit murder, and gang violence.
Sini says the arrests also allowed authorities to thwart plans to commit additional murders.
"As a result of the viable intelligence generated throughout this investigation, law enforcement prevented countless acts of violence over the past 23 months - including seven murder plots right here in Suffolk County," says Sini.
Investigators also say they uncovered some of the gang's methods and rules, including one that says a member has to commit four murders in order to advance from one rank to another.
Authorities say the operation was so far reaching that it effectively dismantled what's known as the gang's New York Program, an international effort by MS-13 to expand on Long Island.
However, they say there are still approximately 8,000 to 10,000 members of the gang left in the United States and in Europe, and that there's more work to be done.
As News 12 has reported, police linked MS-13 to dozens of recent killings on Long Island, including the deaths of Brentwood High School students Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens.
Officials say all of the MS-13 cliques on Long Island are still operating. They say the cliques are now trying to reorganize after their leaders were removed.