Enligt departementet är MS-13 ett transnationellt brottssyndikat, "ett av de farligaste och snabbast växande kriminella gängen i världen i dag".
Sanktionerna gör det möjligt att frysa gängets finansiella tillgångar och förbjuder amerikaner från att göra affärer med MS-13.
Åtgärderna sätter MS-13 på samma lista som Italiens Camorra, Japans Yakuza och Mexikos Zetaskartell.
In a first, U.S. labels MS-13 street gang 'criminal organization'“Financial institutions across the U.S. and foreign branches of U.S. financial institutions are obligated to immediately identify and freeze property or property interests of MS-13 and to report any such blocked assets to the Treasury Department.”
Money generated by local MS-13 groups in the United States is funneled back to the group’s leadership in El Salvador, but the official designation will make it more difficult for members of the gang to use banks and wire transfers to move their profits.
Juan Zarate, former deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush, said Thursday the designation is a signal from the administration that it considers MS-13 to be a significant international threat.
“There is likely a sense that Mara's power comes from its ability to make money,” Zarate said.
Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow for Latin American Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the official designation is likely to make a real difference.
“It [the designation] prioritizes MS-13 over many other criminal organizations and suspicious flows of money,” O'Neil said.
“We certainly welcome the increased participation of our federal partners in dealing with MS-13,” added Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell. “It’s another tool that we didn’t have before. It will help authorities on a macro level, which will supplement gang injunctions and traditional gang enforcement activities that have been employed for years.”
Street gang MS-13 declared international criminal group by Obama administrationWith as many as 10,000 members in 46 states, the gang has expanded far beyond its initial roots. Members are accused of major crimes including murder, kidnapping, prostitution, drug smuggling and human trafficking.
By labeling MS-13 an international criminal organization subject to sanctions by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the government hopes to stymie the gang’s ability to funnel money back to its leaders in El Salvador or launder criminal proceeds through otherwise legitimate businesses.
The government is also making it more difficult for gang members to use banks and wire transfer services to move profits from the group’s crimes.
ICE Director John Morton described the designation as a “powerful weapon” for his agency’s effort to dismantle the gang. The action “allows us to strike at the financial heart of MS-13,” he said.
Other international criminal groups that have been subject to similar sanctions by the Treasury Department include the Yakuza, a Japanese organized crime group, and the ruthless Mexican drug cartel, Los Zetas