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Elmer Canales, a top leader of the infamous Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, is set to stand trial in New York on terrorism charges, as announced by the US Justice Department on Wednesday.
Elmer Canales AKA “Crook de Hollywood”
Canales, an El Salvador citizen also known as “Crook de Hollywood,” was recently extradited from Mexico to face these charges. Canales was apprehended in Mexico and sent to Texas, where a federal court ordered his transfer to New York for trial.
Indicted in 2020 along with 13 other MS-13 members, he faces charges related to his alleged involvement in organized crime activities in the United States, Mexico, and El Salvador over two decades. US Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasized Canales’ role in the gang’s long history of violence and intimidation, both domestically and internationally. “He bears responsibility for the gang’s efforts over decades to terrorize communities, target law enforcement, and sow violence here in the United States and abroad,” Garland stated.
The indictment against Canales was unsealed in early 2021 while incarcerated in El Salvador. Following a US extradition request, the Salvadoran government controversially released him in November 2021, leading to his illegal entry into Guatemala. This move has sparked criticism in El Salvador, especially amidst a rigorous crackdown on gangs that has resulted in accusations of human rights violations.
President Nayib Bukele’s government, which has denied involvement in Canales’ release, has not yet commented on his recent apprehension.