MS-13 gang members targeted by international task force

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by Jeff McShan / 11 News

khou.com

Posted on March 15, 2010 at 9:58 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 16 at 10:25 AM

HOUSTON – Detectives from several countries are in Houston this week to hunt for some of the world’s most violent criminals.

They are trading information about MS-13 gang members in hopes of getting them off the streets and behind bars.

"The violent deaths that we have are really due to the gang problems," said Marcelo Orataya, a homicide detective from El Salvador. "We have two major gangs which are MS and 18th Street Gang."

Albin Zelaya is a classic case of why law enforcement authorities are working together to target MS-13 gang members.

After Zelaya got into a shootout with Houston police, he fled south of the border and committed even more crimes, including decapitating his girlfriend’s parents.

Zelaya was later arrested after returning to Houston and sentenced to life in prison.

He was one of the inmates who tried to escape from a maximum security prison last month.

"We should be concerned with this problem, especially, because we want to avoid its growth," Orataya said.

Houston said Monday that MS-13 gang members have taken up the crime of extortion.

At a hair salon near Westheimer and Fondren, seven gang members robbed and sexually assaulted the women inside, then demanded a weekly payment.

"Trying to intimidate the victims there, saying, ‘Hey, you’re going to be paying us rent,’ like rent every week," said an HPD undercover detective. "Normally, about $100 to $200, whatever the case may be, and if they don’t pay up there are some consequences."

With the assistance of the FBI, the men and one juvenile were caught two weeks later.

But the extortion didn’t end with their arrests.

"These guys are so intimidating," said FBI detective Brian Ritchie. "It is very, very difficult for us to convince people trying to make an honest living to come forward."

Albin Zelaya was eventually caught when he returned to Houston.

The MS-13 gang member received a life sentence, but just last month his name surfaced again.

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