The MS13 allegedly killed husbands to collect life insurance

Authorities in El Salvador dismantled a MS13 network allegedly dedicated to forcing women into marriages before assassinating the husband to collect insurance money, a scheme that speaks to the gang's growing business sophistication.

Three women, who are allegedly members of a MS13 structure dubbed "Black Widows," were arrested on February 24 and given pre-trial detention on February 27, reported La Prensa Gráfica.

According to a February 24 press release by the Attorney General's Office, the suspects are facing charges of aggravated human trafficking, intent and conspiracy to commit first degree murder, aggravated fraud and criminal association. Five other suspects are still at large.

The case was built on testimony from two victims in 2014 and 2016. These women described how they were kidnapped in a house after accepting a job as a cleaning lady from members of the criminal structure. They were then forced into marrying a man, who himself was tricked into believing that the marriage would help them move to the United States. The network would convince the male victim into buying life insurance before eventually assassinating him. The widows were then forced to file paperwork so that the group could collect the insurance money.

Authorities were able to trace at least $60,000 from this scheme that ended up in the suspects' bank accounts. The Attorney General's Office said that this was the first dismantled MS13 structure of its kind, according to La Prensa Gráfica.

InSight Crime Analysis

The MS13's elaborate scheme involving life insurance payouts underscores how the gang is finding an increasing number of ways to generate income. Last November, the group was accused of profiting off selling contraband horse meat on the black market. And during a vast operation in 2016, authorities discovered the complexity of the gang's financial assets, which included motels, bars, brothels and car dealerships.

SEE ALSO: MS13 News and Profile

The MS13's expanding business portfolio carries important implications for the conflict it is waging against the Salvadoran government. The gang's growing revenue streams enable it to find news to put pressure on the authorities. For instance, last year's operation unearthed an MS13 plan to pool nationwide extortion money to fund the creation of an elite unit armed with high-powered rifles that were intended to be used in a frontal attack against state institutions.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...