HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador's ‘Black Widows' and the Growing Sophistication of the MS13
BRIEF

El Salvador's ‘Black Widows' and the Growing Sophistication of the MS13

EL SALVADOR / 1 MAR 2017 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

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.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 8 AUG 2018

A congressman in Honduras has blamed a prominent Honduran NGO for the decision by members of the US Congress to…

ELITES AND CRIME / 27 APR 2018

The selection process for the new attorney general in Honduras is already causing concern among civil society organizations due to…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 22 JUL 2014

Investigations into alleged arms trafficking by members of El Salvador's military have now reached the top, with a former defense…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Dirty Money and Tren de Aragua

29 OCT 2021

InSight Crime was delighted to support investigative reporting in the Americas through a workshop with our friends at Connectas, a non-profit journalism initiative that facilitates collaboration…