The Takedown of MS13 in Sans Francisco

“A suspenseful, informative take on an ambitious criminal investigation.” — Kirkus Reviews

“An interesting and illuminating book about MS-13 and the bold law enforcement operation that took them down in San Francisco.” — Washington Times

“What reads like a work of fiction, so vivid and fantastic, is the true account of a crusade against MS-13 in San Francisco’s Mission District.” — Joseph P. Russoniello, Former US Attorney, Northern District of California

The Story

In a bid to take down MS-13’s criminal network in the Mission District of San Francisco, Michael Santini, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, recruits a pair of hardened gang members and convinces them to risk their lives as criminal informants.

Through a combination of clever ruses and dogged determination, Santini tracks down the gang’s international network from the Bay Area streets and alleys, all the way to the prison cells in corrupt Central American regimes.

It’s a thrilling story about a dedicated team of special agents and federal prosecutors — in partnership with a few local cops — who overcome major political and legal challenges to take down more than thirty violent criminal targets in a masssive sweep.

Operation Devil Horns offers a rare glimpse into the criminal subculture of MS-13, an international gang that terrorizes communities across America. The story illustrates how savvy police work and interagency cooperation can cut through politics to positively impact life-or-death crime fighting on the streets.


Michael Santini is the penname of a career special agent with Homeland Security Investigations. He previously served as a border patrol agent in San Diego, California. For his work as lead case agent on Operation Devil Horns, Michael received a distinguished service medal from the U.S. Attorney General. He has a master’s degree in criminal justice from John Jay College in New York.

Ray Bolger is a journalist with over twenty years of experience covering business, technology, finance, government, and crime. His published articles have appeared in many leading outlets including The Baltimore Sun, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Hill, and Forbes magazine.

Media Appearances

More Reviews

“Riveting! This thrilling non-fiction that reads like a novel while informing the reader about how organized crime exploits weak public policy on immigration. It gives you amazing insights into the savage MS-13, which has brought drugs, gangland crime and brutal violence from villages in Central America to the Mission District of San Francisco. This is a story of rare heroism in America today, whereby Michael Santini, a maverick special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, and his dedicated team bravely overcome the odds and political headwinds to bring down the villains. A real-word tale with a happy ending – this time the good guys win!”—Jack Belcher

“Great story and a great behind-the-scenes peek at law enforcement and the gangs that make so many headlines. You don’t often get to see the hard work that goes in to an operation like this. Well told and well written narrative.”
— Vanessa Keefe

“Really great read! I visited the Mission District in SF a few times back when this stuff was happening. Of course I didn’t realize that there was an operation going on in plain sight during that time. Santini does a great job of bringing back these memories with his scenic descriptions of the neighborhood and its culture. ODH reads at a fast pace and recalls the Whitey Bulger book in that respect. The history of MS-13 is fascinating and sets up the story to follow. These guys are well-organized and cold blooded. I have nothing but respect for ICE and how they breached MS-13. The neighborhood is said to be safer now because of Santini and his crew’s brave efforts. These days Politicians are the new enemy of SF but I will always hold The Mission District close to my heart. Waiting for the full-length feature film.”
— Eric Lee

“Read the Prelude at the beginning of this book, and you’ll understand in minutes why Agent Michael Santini relentlessly pursued this operation. I have a special perspective, because I am the narrator who was fortunate to be cast to read the audio version. It was a tremendous privilege to tell the story of this incredibly courageous and heroic effort to beat back one of the most horrifying criminal elements in history. .. This non-fiction account reads like the thrilling adventure that it was, and captures all the brutality.frustration, stress, intensity, courage, perseverance, and triumph of this remarkable law enforcement effort. It’s a page-turner. I would add that this is more than just a wonderfully written book. It’s a story that I firmly believe needed to be told, and that every American needs to hear.”
— Spencer James

“Great read. This book takes you behind the scenes of the notorious MS-13 gang and how law enforcement’s hands are tied in bringing these gangs to justice. I highly recommend this true crime story.”
— Whitney Reidlinger

“What reads like a work of fiction, so vivid and fantastic, is the true account of a crusade against MS-13 in San Francisco’s Mission District. It is the story of one investigator’s Herculean effort to marshal federal, state and local law enforcement resources to take on and defeat a criminal syndicate as sophisticated as La Cosa Nostra was in its prime, as vicious as any terrorist group and as menacing and dangerous as any subversive organization this nation has ever seen. This victory was all the more extraordinary given that it played out against the backdrop of a political establishment more concerned with promoting sanctuary for illegal alien criminals than protecting the general public from harm. Operation Devil Horns is a must read for anyone who thinks they know how MS-13 operates, the threat it poses, and what can and must be done to destroy it.”
— Joseph P. Russoniello, Former United States Attorney, Northern District of California

“Operation Devil Horns is a real-life thriller, taking you inside the savage world of MS-13 in San Francisco — but they are no match for a smart and audacious ICE agent, who also has to fight local sanctuary politics to get the job done. This book couldn’t be more timely, as MS-13 has regained a foothold in many American communities, and ICE is again contending with interference from foolish and misguided pro-sanctuary politicians. Read it for the great story, send it to your member of congress, and then go thank your local ICE office for what they do every day to keep us all safe.”
— Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies

“Operation Devil Horns is a compelling read, deftly combining the timely, relevant, fact-based narration of journalism with the gritty settings, hard-boiled characters and snappy dialogue of detective fiction. It provides a wealth of details, elucidating the inner workings of a transnational organized crime ring along with the inter-agency operations of the post-911 US border security apparatus. Yet the story never is burdened by clinical procedure. Instead, it sails inexorably towards its conclusion, and that of MS-13 in San Francisco—a notable achievement!”
— Joseph Schaub

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