Federal law enforcement unveiled charges against 11 individuals connected to MS-13 on Wednesday, in relation to the gruesome beating and sex trafficking of a 13-year-old girl in Maryland and Virginia.
The girl is at the forefront of the government’s charges and is unnamed in court documents. She is referred to as “Minor 2” in the 48-page FBI affidavit that alleges that between August and October 2018, she was beaten twice with a baseball bat, struck 26 times on each occasion.
Prosecutors say she and another unidentified girl referred to as “Minor 3” had run away from a court-ordered facility called “Shelter Care” for children under the age of 18. Minor 3 had connections to MS-13, and had told the central victim about the organization.
The first time the 13-year-old girl was beaten with the baseball bat, it was part of initiation into MS-13. The second time, an individual based in El Salvador sanctioned the beating. He believed she was fraternizing with the 18th Street gang and had her punished for “other bad things.” He wanted to watch the assault live, and said she “peed herself,” when it happened.
An examination after her recovery showed that she had endured blunt force trauma to her lower back, buttocks and thighs. She had difficulty walking after each beating, and told law enforcement that she continued to suffer from back pain.
The victim was also sexually trafficked and abused by several members and associates of MS-13 throughout the nearly two-month ordeal. Court documents illustrate heinous communications about transactions and activities involving the defendants and other MS-13 associates regarding the trafficking of the victim.
Law enforcement obtained a communication translated from Spanish between two defendants from September 2018, in which one says, “I will move the little young female over there with you. You can have her all week if you want. Just give me something under the table.” He proceeded to send a photo of the victim with her chest exposed to his co-defendant.
Ultimately when she was recovered in Maryland by law enforcement in October 2018, she tested positive for the sexually transmitted diseases including chlamydia.
MS-13, or “Mara Salvatrucha,” is one of the most notorious criminal organizations in the world. President Trump often refers to the violent gang to justify his administration’s staunch immigration policies, because the organization’s violent hold in Central America is one of the reasons migrants flee for the U.S.
“Fighting MS-13 is not anti-immigrant. Fighting MS-13 is about as pro-immigrant as it gets.” U.S Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, G. Zachary Terwilliger, said at a press conference Wednesday. “Because it is that group, hard-working immigrants seeking a better life and safety, that suffer the most at the hands of this vicious and vile group.”
Last month the same office announced the first terrorism related charges against an MS-13 leader who ran the gang’s operations on the East Coast.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced plans to award over $35 million in housing assistance grants to non-profit organizations from 33 states across the country that provide housing and services to victims of human trafficking. A senior justice administration official told CBS News that there would be “no limitations” on which U.S. citizens or non-citizen survivors would be eligible to receive the assistance.
Ten defendants were arrested Wednesday and made their initial appearances in federal court, where the magistrate judge remanded them into custody pending their preliminary and detention hearing, which is scheduled for Friday.