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Decorated Guatemalan special forces colonel accused of laundering money for MS-13

May 8, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Decorated Guatemalan special forces colonel accused of laundering money for MS-13

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A leading special forces colonel for the Guatemalan Army who worked with U.S. Military’s Southern Command in border security operations faces various charges in his country for laundering cash for the MS-13 gang.

Last month, the government of Guatemala declared the results of a large-scale probe focused on targeting various cells or groups of the gang known as Mara Salvatrucha.

The operation, “Regional Shield 2,” resulted in the arrest of 71 operators. Officials announced the apprehension of Colonel Ariel Salvador De Leon, a top-ranking security official and at one time the vice-director for logistics for the Ministry of Defense.

The military official reportedly assisted top MS-13 financial operators with laundering large amounts of cash and have garnered 13 million Quetzals or approximately $2 million in an eight-year span.

Guatemala’s El Periodico reported that De Leon had been part of Guatemala’s special forces and completed training on numerous occasions from U.S. Southern Command.

Some of the education dealt with combatting drug trafficking. Despite what seemed to be a prestigious military career, De Leon is accused of helping a cell of MS-13 identified as “Hemster Locos” launder money.

The cash originated primarily from extorted businesses. One of the ways described by detectives had to do with the sale of vehicles transported from the U.S. to Guatemala. The cars were fixed at a local body shop and were then sold.

As part of their probe, investigators claim that De Leon met with Emigdio Roda Dias, a top financial executive for MS-13. Roda Dias answered to Jorge Arturo also known as “El Fantasma” Lagos Reyes, the head of Hemster Locos and a member of the Council of Nine, which rules over MS-13.

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