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22 San Fernando Valley MS-13 Members Charged With Murders, Drug Trafficking

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(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Federal authorities have charged 22 members of a San Fernando Valley branch of the MS-13 gang with seven murders, attempted murder and drug trafficking.

Some of the murders were allegedly carried out with machetes, knives and baseball bats, according to the indictment.

A joint investigation by the FBI, LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department led to the 78-page indictment, according to the U.S. Attorney's office for the Central District of California.

Three defendants were arrested over the past several days, a fourth was arrested over the weekend in Oklahoma, and the other 18 defendants were taken into custody over the past year, some on state charges and some on previously filed federal charges, the U.S. Attorney's office statement said.

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"We have now taken off the streets nearly two dozen people associated with the most violent arm of MS-13 in Los Angeles, where the gang is believed to have killed 24 people over the past two years," said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. "This investigation has been an unqualified success."

The indictment focuses on the "Fulton clique" of MS-13, which has recently seen an influx of young immigrants from Central America, according to the U.S. Attorney's office statement. MS-13 has traditionally been made up of people of Salvadoran origin.

Those who wanted to join the gang were "required to kill an MS-13 rival or someone perceived to be adverse to MS-13 to be initiated into MS-13," the indictment said.

The murders included the slaying of a rival gang member suspected of defacing MS-13 graffiti, according to the indictment. He was taken to a remote spot in the Angeles National Forest where six MS-13 members dismembered him with a machete, cut out his heart and threw his body parts into a canyon, it said.

In one instance, the gang murdered a homeless man who was living in a park it controlled, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

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The U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. is prosecuting the case.