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Over the years, members of the international gang MS-13 have been convicted of a number of crimes across the country, ranging from racketeering to murder. MS-13, also known as La Mara Salvatrucha is also one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.

Here is some background on the gang that caused the FBI to start a task force to tackle the criminal enterprise.

MS-13’s roots

Salvadoran immigrants fleeing the country’s civil war started MS-13 decades ago in Los Angeles. Its members are also immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and other Central and South American countries, according to an FBI Threat Assessment of the gang.

Members often wear clothing or tattoos incorporating MS-13 or the number 13, the FBI said.

The gang has expanded its reach through recruitment and migration, the FBI said. Members often move to get jobs and be near family members. MS-13 recruits new members through the internet and absorbs rival street gangs.

MS-13 became so powerful that the FBI started a MS-13 National Gang Task Force in 2004.

‘Transnational criminal’ enterprise

In 2012, MS-13 became the first, and remains the only street gang designated by the United States government as a “transnational criminal organization,” according to the US. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.

MS-13 is one of the largest criminal organizations in the country, with more than 6,000 members in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia, the US Attorney’s Office said. In addition, more 30,000 members operate internationally, mostly in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, the US Attorney’s Office said.

In Massachusetts, MS-13 is largely composed of immigrants and descendants of El Salvador.

MS-13’s criminal footprint

MS-13 perpetrates violence to intimidate rival gangs, using every weapon from firearms to machetes, according to a 2008 FBI Threat Assessment.

Gang members have severed the fingers of rivals with machetes, killed suspected informants and committed rapes, assaults and other…