Police in Mexico City arrested one of the most wanted leaders of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang accused of multiple crimes in the United States, officials said on Tuesday, in a fresh blow to one of Central America’s most violent criminal groups.
Jose Wilfredo Ayala, 55, was arrested after a tip from a neighbor, according to the Mexican capital’s security ministry. The ministry said it had discovered Ayala – believed to be second-in-command of the gang commonly known as MS-13 – was using a false identity and hiding in Mexico City and in two areas a short drive north in Hidalgo state.
An official with Mexico’s national immigration institute INM told Reuters later on Tuesday that Ayala had already been deported to his native El Salvador, but did not provide further detail.
Surveillance video showed Ayala, also known by his alias “Indio” or “El Indio de Hollywood,” was likely sheltering in a building in the Mexican capital’s Buenavista neighborhood.
Ayala is “under investigation for homicide charges and is tied to other crimes like aggravated robbery, using false documents, possessing weapons of war, public disorder, and others committed in the United States,” the ministry said in a statement.
A warrant for Ayala’s arrest in the U.S. state of Texas citing federal charges is outstanding, officials added.
In an indictment against more than a dozen of MS-13’s “highest-ranking” leaders, made public on Feb. 23 by federal prosecutors in New York, Ayala was listed as one of four fugitive leaders. Six others are believed to be in custody of Salvadoran authorities.
El Salvador’s justice and security ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Ayala’s capture.