HOUSTON — Members of the gang known as Mara Salvatrucha are suspected in the deaths of a toddler and at least eight others here, and authorities are cracking down to prevent the group from expanding.
At least 20 members of the gang, also known as MS-13, have been arrested in the Houston area in recent months, and the group’s reputed leader was arrested in south Texas in February, said Al Tribble, spokesman for the FBI’s Houston office.
“We’re just uncovering what kind of stronghold they might have,” he said. “Our hope is we can disrupt them before they get organized.”
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The arrests in Houston come after a national crackdown on the gang that netted more than 150 arrests of Mara Salvatrucha members in seven U.S. cities, said Luisa Deason, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Houston.
In Alexandria, Va., four MS-13 members are on trial in the slaying of 17-year-old Brenda Paz.
Sheriff’s investigators arrested five members of Mara Salvatrucha after the shooting death of 18-month-old Aiden Naquin in Houston on April 12. Aiden was killed in his car seat when a man opened fire on the car driven by his father, Ernest Naquin.
Alleged gang leader Lester Rivera Paz, 29, of Honduras, was arrested near Falfurrias in south Texas after he illegally entered the country, authorities said. He is accused of masterminding a Christmastime bus massacre in Honduras that killed 28 people and pleaded guilty this month to illegally entering the country after previously being deported. He is set to be sentenced July 8.
Another MS-13 member, Jose Adonis Quintanilla-Perez, 24, was among 13 illegal immigrants arrested near Falfurrias on April 6. He is set to be tried on May 17 for illegally entering the country.