A grand jury indictment was unsealed Monday for about 25 alleged members of the MS-13 gang who are accused of extorting food truck operators.
The defendants allegedly targeted small food truck vendors at construction job sites.
Formed in Los Angeles by refugees from El Salvador and Central America in the 1980s, Mara Salvatrucha – commonly abbreviated at MS-13 – was recently labeled a transnational criminal organization by federal law enforcement authorities. That designation enables federal agents to freeze assets.
Outside the criminal courthouse in Downtown LA on Monday, relatives of the men and women now under indictment say police were abusive when they raided their homes – from Hollywood to West Covina.
Shirley Huizar said she was detained and her children were taken away.
"I talked to them on the phone," Huizar said. "They told me, 'Mommy, why did the police put the gun in my face?'"
Specific details of last week's raid have not been released, but family members insist their loves ones are not involved in gang-related activities.
"I know he's got some tickets he didn't pay," said Rudy Sanchez, whose stepson was arrested. "His bail went a little higher, but that was going to be all."
The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on April 18.