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Gang Members Indicted For World-Wide Crime

A federal grand jury indicted 26 reputed members of the international gang MS-13 accused in a cross-border drug ring, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey unsealed a federal indictment that charges people believed to be members of the gang with federal racketeering for forming a drug trafficking ring that sold cocaine, marijuana and narcotics, and of committing multiple robberies. MS-13 is one of the largest gangs in the country.

Some face charges in four slayings in Greensboro and Charlotte.

"Criminal gangs such as MS-13 increasingly recognize no borders, which means that international cooperation is more important today than it ever was," Mukasey said in a statement before his scheduled news conference in Charlotte.

Federal authorities claim MS-13 is one of the largest gangs in the nation with 10,000 members in the U.S., Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Investigators said one of the gang's active leaders is imprisoned in El Salvador.

The indictment says gang members hold regular meetings much like a government, discussing gang rules, problems and unity. The cliques met frequently in Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham and Columbia, S.C. and elsewhere, and the meetings often brought in gang guests from other states, according to court documents.

Criminal activity, especially directed at rival gangs, increased a member's position in the gang, according to the indictment.

Many of the leaders - often called "shot callers" or "voices" - are in prison in El Salvador, the indictment said. But prosecutors claim gang members paid dues at their meetings and often sent cash to those in prison, at times wiring money at the request of a leader.