EDITOR’S NOTE: WND staff reporter Jerome R. Corsi recently conducted an exclusive interview with Robert B. Loosle, Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Division in the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
The Oct. 18 interview was held in Loosle’s Los Angeles FBI office.
Robert B. Loosle, special agent in charge of the criminal division in the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, interviewed in El Salvador (WND photo)
LOS ANGELES – Stepping up its effort to combat Hispanic gang violence in the U.S., the FBI has opened an office in El Salvador, where it is targeting two notorious groups wreaking havoc on American soil.
The Transnational Anti-Gang Center, or TAC, is assisting in the development of international anti-gang cases, with a particular focus on the18th Street gang and MS-13, says Robert B. Loosle, special agent in charge of the criminal division in the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
As WND reported, the FBI agent told an international anti-gang conference in El Salvador in April that the 18th Street gang now operates in 37 U.S. states while MS-13 is in 44. Both also are in Central America.
“The TAC will house two permanent FBI agents in El Salvador,” Loosle told WND in an interview at his L.A. office. “The expectation is that the federal and local agencies will be working in harmony with the El Salvadorans in that center.”
Loosle explained the FBI’s future vision is to see a similar offices established in Honduras, Guatemala and possibly Mexico.
“These centers help U.S. agencies by exchanging information,” he said. “For instance, the Los Angeles Police Department is initiating an officer exchange program with El Salvador, and so is the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.”
The FBI, he said, helped introduce the LAPD and Sheriff’s Department to their counterparts in El Salvador.
Loosle noted that in May, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa went to El Salvador and signed a memorandum of intent with the Salvadoran government to initiate the officer exchange program.
Loosle explained that if his office is working on a case, the Transnational Anti-Gang Center is its central point of contact in El Salvador to gather information. If the Salvadorans are working a case and need information from the U.S., he said, they do it through the National Gang Intelligence Center in Washington.
As WND previously reported, Loosle stressed that deportation has proved to be an effective tool in many parts of the U.S. to combat the Hispanic gangs.
Despite the best efforts of U.S. authorities, Loosle explained at the April conference, some gang members may get deported several times.
Deported gang members generally return to their home countries, but many come back to the U.S. When they return to the U.S., Loosle said at the time, they often bring with them new skills and knowledge they might use to engage in additional criminal activity.
The FBI agent told WND at his L.A. office that the deported gang members who return to the U.S. don’t always come back to the state they previously were in. Some who originate in L.A., for example might be deported to El Salvador then settle in Houston when they return to the U.S.
“So, they kind of spread out, because maybe they know they are wanted by law enforcement in a particular city or have ties, they don’t want to go back to a particular state,” Loosle said. “So, when the gang members come back to the United States, they go somewhere else, where there is already a community.”
WND asked Loosle if the FBI had any specific intelligence that indicated the Hispanic gangs in the U.S. work directly with the drug lords in Mexico.
“MS-13 and the 18th Street gang do work distributing drugs in the United States,” he answered, “but there is not a known direct tie between the gangs and the drug lords in Mexico.”
Loosle said the FBI has information that Hispanic gangs have been contracted by the drug lords in Mexico for work in Mexico.
“But I really can’t say that there’s any specific information that they are tied directly to the drug lords and working here in the United States,” he cautioned.
“For instance, we can’t say right now that a particular cartel has contracted MS-13, say in California, to do their work,” he explained.
In L.A., Loosle said, MS-13 and 18th Street engage heavily in extortion.
“These Hispanic gangs also prey on individuals who are already involved in some kind of criminal activity, so there is a distinction made between innocent victims in the immigrant community and individuals who are already involved in some kind of criminal activity,” he said. “The gangs prey on illegal immigrants and immigrants involved in illegal activity, assuming these individuals will not report the extortion to the authorities because of their illegal status or illegal activities.”
The gangs, he pointed out, often extort prostitutes, drug dealers, contraband sellers and car thieves.
Loosle described for WND a particularly violent gang-related tragedy that occurred recently, the murder of Luis Garcia, a 23-day old baby who was killed by a stray bullet in a gang shooting.
“In this case a few weeks ago, an 18th Street clique was trying to extort an individual and his wife who were selling bootlegged DVDs,” Loosle began. “So, the person wouldn’t pay up, and on the third attempt to extort, they shot him and his wife.
“Well, he happened to be holding a 23 day-old baby,” Loosle said. “The 18th Street gang members killed the baby because he wouldn’t pay up. The mother and father wouldn’t pay up.”
Loosle acknowledged the FBI is concerned that the violent Hispanic gangs could become involved with organized crime.
In making the point, he compared them with terrorist organizations.
“Because of how these gangs operate – and because of their configuration, which is numerous cliques, loosely knit, all over the U.S. as well as all over Central America and Mexico – what we want to avoid is that other criminal enterprises like cartels or terrorist groups could use these gangs, either wittingly or unwittingly, to carry out smuggling the contraband, human trafficking, enforcement of different things, because they operate just like terrorist cells, because they’re cliques,” he said.
In many instances, said Loosle, a Hispanic gang clique may be doing something another clique doesn’t know about, but some have been known to work together on a particular operation.
“So, there’s no saying these various Hispanic gang cliques won’t ever unite and become a larger and a stronger force,” he said.
Tied to terror?
Loosle stressed the FBI does not have any specific intelligence that the Hispanic gangs are working with terrorists right now.
“But there’s always the possibility out there that they could, probably unwittingly, negotiate smuggling of contraband into the U.S. through Latin America, or negotiate the smuggling of aliens that may be of special interest to us into the U.S. through Latin America.”
Loosle affirmed U.S. Hispanic gang members were still in active communication with their counterparts in Mexico and Central America.
“A lot of it is by telephone or by way of travel, of gang members traveling back and forth, either voluntarily or involuntarily,” he said. “If Hispanic gang members are deported, they go back to Mexico or El Salvador, or the other countries they came from, and communicate with what’s going on in the United States. This communication may prompt either a clique in El Salvador or a clique in the U.S. to devise a plan to commit some type of criminal activity.”
Loosle emphasized that deportation is not the only solution to dealing with violent Hispanic gangs in the U.S.
“Last year when we took down an 18th Street clique in Los Angeles some 60 percent of them were foreign nationals from Central America that had been deported more than once,” he said.
Loosle expressed hope that the newly-established TAC would prove to be a useful law enforcement structure that will “help us look at some new data.”
“We believe the new data will help us identify individuals who are criminals in other countries, so we keep better track of them,” he said. “Then, as we deport them to these countries, then we need to insure that those countries are keeping track of them.
“We deport the Hispanic gang members who have served their time for crimes committed here,” he said. “But the crime they committed in the United States typically means nothing in those foreign countries. We know the Hispanic gang members we deport after they have served their time in prison often will become associated with individuals in those foreign countries that may be criminals.
“So, I think it is incumbent upon those countries also to track those individuals,” he continued. “We need to become better at tracking these gang members we deport and to do that we need to generate new data from our interaction with foreign police.”
Don’t target illegals
Are illegal immigrants a key part of the Hispanic gang problem?
“When we investigate criminal activity, we don’t target alien nationals,” Loosle stressed. “We target individuals committing crimes. After we have completed our investigation and we have done our take-down and the rest, if they happen to be foreign nationals, that is secondary.”
Loosle said the LAPD has identified zones of the city where various cliques are operating.
“So, the LAPD knows where to put their resources,” he said. “And it’s not just a matter of identifying these ‘hot areas,’ or ‘risk areas,’ so they can do suppression efforts, but also the LAPD wants to know where to do their prevention activities. A large part of the spread of gangs is the recruiting effort that goes on by these gangs, MS-13 and 18th Street.”
“If MS-13 and 18th Street are in areas of Los Angeles where there are larger schools, you want to target those areas with prevention, not just with suppression.”
Loosle emphasized that the relationship between the FBI with the LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department is a model for the country.
“What’s happened here in LA is that all the federal agencies have come together – ATF, the U.S. Marshals, DEA, DHS, ICE – have come together with the LAPD, the Sheriff’s Department, the City Attorney’s office, the District Attorney’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s office – and come up with a plan.”
The plan, he said, targets certain gangs and certain areas with a top 25 list.
“The key to any anti-gang effort is sustainability – to be consistent and to sustain the effort,” he said. “When you have these quick-hits and then it’s over, you might clean up a pocket for a few months or maybe a year, but then it’s over and the gangs come back. So, a successful anti-gang effort has to be a sustainable effort and it can’t just be suppression. It also has to be prevention.”
Loosle commented on the efforts of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which has a “large overall plan that deals with suppression, rehabilitation, prevention and intervention.”
The city attorney also has been “very aggressive,” he said, and the district attorney, Steve Cooley, has been very involved, with “specific plans.”
Loosle explained how the FBI works with the various efforts involved in the Los Angeles anti-gang effort.
“The FBI is very good at long-term investigations,” he said, “but there is also a need to do some of these quick hits.
“So, we work with the LAPD and Sheriff’s Department in some quick investigations, especially when the safety of a community is involved,” he continued. “The ATF, for instance, has jurisdiction for gun-running, and they also focus on dismantling these groups, but through the long-term investigation.
“In our plan you need to have the long-term investigations as well as surges going out to bust up and dismantle groups,” he summed up. “But, overall, you have to have a sustainable effort.
“We need to reduce capabilities of gangs like MS-13 and 18th Street through cutting off their communications capability and their mobility.”