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Sunday, 9 August 2009

Salvatore and Manuel Alas from El Salvador arrested in Saratoga Springs are members of the violent international gang MS13

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Monday arrested three men living above the Big Apple Restaurant & Lounge on Route 9 on charges of illegal immigration, and two of them were found to be "associated with the MS13 gang," ICE spokesman Harold Ort said. The criminal gang is known formally as Mara Salvatrucha, and its members have been involved with contract killings, human trafficking, home invasions, assaults and other crimes. It typically has operated in the Southwest and on the West Coast.Two El Salvador nationals arrested in Saratoga Springs are members of the violent international gang MS13, and police are investigating whether a Salvadoran from Corinth who is charged in the kidnapping of a 24-year-old woman is part of the group, authorities said Wednesday.Two of the men who were arrested worked at the restaurant. Noting that most of the gang's members are Salvadorans, Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III said they ''have a reputation of being extremely violent, in fact one of the most violent gangs."He said members have typically sported tattoos, but have recently started using tattoos that are visible only under ultraviolet light. Ort would not identify the three men arrested Monday as part of what he described as a targeted enforcement action. He confirmed that one of the suspects had been released.Guy Benacquista, co-owner of Big Apple, identified two of the men as cousins Salvatore and Manuel Alas from El Salvador. He said they had worked as lunch cooks at the restaurant since it opened almost two years ago. An Albany County jail spokeswoman on Wednesday confirmed the two men were there. The third man had been living with the Alas cousins and was freed after making $10,000 bail, Benacquista said."All three aliens were arrested for violations of the immigration law and are awaiting a hearing before a federal judge," Ort said.
The arrests came a week after State Police apprehended Victor V. Hernandez-Perez of Corinth and charged him with felony kidnapping and robbery in a crime that shocked the community. Police say the 23-year-old Salvadoran attacked and abducted a woman in downtown Saratoga Springs and threatened her with sexual assault and death.
The woman escaped naked and bloody from the man's van more than 10 miles away, police said.Authorities say Hernandez-Perez is an illegal immigrant who got his job at Bentley's Restaurant on Route 9 with forged residency and Social Security documents. He is being held in Saratoga County jail without bail; police are investigating if he is a member of MS13, Murphy said. Ort would say only that ICE could seek the removal of Hernandez-Perez from the U.S. A county grand jury is considering Hernandez-Perez's case this week. Police are investigating if his DNA matches that of suspects in open criminal cases, including a report of a Hispanic man who knocked out and sexually abused a woman in the Lake George area on June 30. Warren County investigators could not be reached for an update on that case on Wednesday.The arrests of the Alas cousins shocked Benacquista, a first-generation American who came from Italy in 1955 and is sensitive to helping immigrants. The workers were about 30, and had presented proof of their residency and Social Security numbers, Benacquista said. He had thought the pair were "clean- cut, dependable, hard working."


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