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Food Trucks Fall Victim to Extortion by MS-13 Gang Members

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Twenty-six reputed members of the MS-13 gang have been indicted due to a connection with an operation that threatened food truck operators to pay rent on their gang's "turf."

The transnational gang, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, began among Salvadoran refugees — many of them ex-soldiers — who came to Los Angeles in the 1980s. There is a large concentration of members in the MacArthur Park area.

At least three instances of extortion were cited in story of the L.A. Times, where food truck vendors were coerced into paying rent if they wanted to operate in the gang's territory.

Says the Times:

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The extent of the alleged scheme was not spelled out in the indictment, but the court documents released Monday allege that the crimes date from summer 2007 and involved at least three food vendors. According to court records, that was when a defendant identified as Marlon Juarez ordered food truck operator Dany Lara to start paying "rent" money to MS-13 if he wanted to operate his business in the gang's territory near Western Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard.

Juarez then allegedly sent other gang members to "threaten and coerce" Lara to start paying, the indictment states. In addition to "rent" of $30 to $50 each week, gang members demanded that Lara give them free food.

A second detailed account says that in October 2012, food truck operator Juan Mendieta's life was threatened if his employees did not pay rent money.

The food trucks that fell victims to the activity weren't the gourmet road stoves our city has become known for, but rather more humble roach coaches that serve the blue collar working community and construction workers.

You can watch the KTLA video below for more details: