Marshals: Cartel members praying to saints to protect them - Fox 2 News Headlines

Marshals: Cartel members praying to saints to protect them from arrest

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PHOENIX -

A normally benign religious symbol could actually be a symbol for something much more sinister. U.S. Marshals say religious saints are being used to represent drug and street gangs.

These are the faces of biblical saints. They are often found in a Christian or Catholic home. But now, U.S. Marshals say these faces should be looked at twice if found in a suspect's home.

A cross. A rosary. Images of La Santa Maria or the Virgin Mary and other saints.

Familiar to us as biblical icons found within the Christian faith -- but U.S. Marshals say these holy saints are now showing their faces inside criminals' homes.

"A lot of the Mexican drug traffickers and gangs will use prayer for protection from law enforcement and anyone they consider their enemy," says Robert Almonte, U.S. Marshal's Office

Traffickers and gang members will pray to these saints for unholy things -- like law immunity. They will ask the normally do-good saints to ward off law enforcement so they can get away with bad things. This trend is all new to law enforcement.

"If a lot of these items pop up, like Santa Muerte in the bedroom, it's something [officers] may want to look at and see what's going on."

Usually, traffickers and gang members will adopt signs like this one: La Santa Muerte or the Saint of Death. The spirit of death often mirrors their ill intentions, but praying to the Virgin Mary is a new saint to worship.

"Not everybody praying to the different icons are criminals. This information was meant to enhance their safety and use as a tool and meant to further their investigation."

Should officers find the saints inside a suspect's home, further investigation should be done. The criminal could have international gang connections.

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