MS-13 gang member, Interpol fugitive arrested under Operation Matador removed to El Salvador
NEW YORK — A female MS-13 gang member wanted to face charges in El Salvador was arrested under Operation Matador in March, pursuant to an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations. She was removed Nov. 16 to El Salvador by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
Milessa Cortez-Granados, 32, an active MS-13 gang member, initially entered the United States at an unknown place, on an unknown date. On Nov. 2, 2009, she was convicted in U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, of illegally entering the U.S. and sentenced to time served. ICE removed her on the same date. Sometime after, Cortez-Granados illegally re-entered the United States.
According to Salvadoran law enforcement authorities, on Jan. 12, 2013, Cortez-Granados, along with other associates, threatened police officers patrolling in the local area with firearms. She was identified as the individual that provided information on the presence of law enforcement in the area. As a result, several police officers were injured.
In November 2016, Salvadoran law enforcement authorities in San Miguel, El Salvador, issued an Interpol Red Notice for her arrest, charging Cortez-Granados with attempted aggravated murder, attempted aggravated damages, and terrorist organizations. On March 15, 2018, Cortez-Granados was arrested in Hempstead, New York, by HSI Long Island’s Violent Gang Unit, under the auspices of Operation Matador, and detained in ERO custody.
On Oct. 26, 2018, Cortez-Granados was ordered removed by an immigration judge in New York City, paving the way for her removal to El Salvador. She was removed from the United States via an ICE Air Operations Charter flight and transferred into the custody of Salvadoran law enforcement authorities.
Operation Matador, operating under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transnational Organized Crime Initiative (DHS TOCI), was launched by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York along with ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). This joint initiative is comprised of HSI special agents, ERO deportation officers and the ICE Office of Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA); U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and state and local law enforcement partners to include Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) and the Hempstead Police Department. The DHS TOCI is responsible for identifying, interdicting and investigating a wide variety of transnational border crime with a concentration on MS-13 gang activity.
Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 1,700 foreign fugitives from the United States who were sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. In fiscal year 2017, ICE conducted 226,119 removals nationwide. Eighty-three percent of individuals removed from the interior of the United States had previously been convicted of a criminal offense.
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