MS13 Arrest Sheds Light on Gang’s Finances

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The seizure of a rudimentary ledger belonging to an alleged MS13 gang member in El Salvador sheds a little light on the group’s financial dealings and priorities. 

Salvadoran authorities got the documents after capturing an alleged member of the gang, reported El Diario de Hoy.

The detainee, a woman whose name was not revealed but who goes by the alias “La Chacala,” was arrested in San Sebastián, a municipality in the central department of San Vicente. Authorities believe she is part of an MS13 group that operates in the neighboring department of Cuscatlán.

During the operation that led to her arrest, police forces seized notebooks that outlined the expenses made by the group in April 2016. The documents show the gang spent over $3,000 obtained through extortions to local businesses and transport employees to purchase ammunition, fix motorbikes, pay for mobile phone data and for a kidney dialysis for a suspected gang member.

Upon arresting her, authorities also confiscated three mobile phones and just under half a kilogram of marijuana. According to El Diario de Hoy, La Chacala faces homicide and extortion charges.

InSight Crime Analysis

There are several things that stand out in the documents, which can be partially viewed on El Diario de Hoy’s website. First, these are miniscule sums of money that a hand-to-mouth organization like the MS13 and other gangs manage. The “earnings” are in the hundreds of dollars for the month from each source; the “expenses” are at most in the low thousands. 

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

Second, the gang is spending a high percentage of its income on war material. It is hard to say if this is normal since we have no months to compare with, but the over $1,000 spent on ammunition does seem like a large amount of money relative to the income. It could indicate they are on a war footing. 

Third, the gang is acting like a company: paying to fix or replace infrastructure and covering costs of medical procedures.    

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