Venezuelan gang responsible for at least 62 robberies in NYC: police

The South American criminal enterprise is believed to have taken advantage of the special privileges given to Venezuelan migrants by the Biden administration.

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC

It has been revealed that many of the illegal immigrants suspected of carrying out dozens of robberies across New York City are tied to a Venezuelan gang known as Tren de Aragua. 

The South American criminal enterprise is believed to have taken advantage of the special privileges given to Venezuelan migrants by the Biden administration to slip across the southern border and carry out their business in the Big Apple. Between October 2022 and September 2023 alone, 41 members were arrested by Customs and Border Protection. 

According to the New York Post, law enforcement sources said that the robberies, most of which involved men on mopeds targeting women, displayed characteristics of crimes committed in the past by Tren de Aragua.

Members of the gang, sources noted, were among the tens of thousands of Venezuelan asylum seekers who have entered the United States in recent months. While many Republicans have expressed a desire to see the flow slow to prevent organized crime from infiltrating American soil, Democrats have proposed raising the number of newcomers from the South American country. 

Tren de Aragua, which translates to "Araguan Train," was founded in the Venezuelan state of Aragua in 2012 by members of a trade union. As the New York Post reports, the gang's first money-making scheme involved the targeting of a proposed railroad, hence the name, however they have since moved on to far more violent crimes, including robberies, drug deals, and human trafficking. 

The gang has been labelled a criminal enterprise by the government of Venezuela, though it has been able to remain operational in the country. It also has members in Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and Chile. 

The gang’s branch leader in Columbia, José Manuel Vera, also calls himself “Satan” and was arrested after business did not pay up in an extortion scheme. Their employees were kidnapped, tortured and dismembered before being dumped outside businesses in tarps. 

It has now established itself in the United States, using shelters set up in New York City to recruit members. 

The first robbery in the city tied to the gang occurred in November 2023, with the most recent taking place on February 4. Their crimes were recorded in every borough except Staten Island, with 56 percent of them in Manhattan. 

New York Police Department Chief Detective Joe Kenny revealed that the gang is made up of illegal immigrants who are living in the city's shelter system and named 30-year-old Victor Parra as the leader in the city. He said Parra would use WhatsApp to alert his minions about a crime he wanted them to commit, specifying exactly which type of phone he wanted them to nab. 

"Once the messages are received, the crime wave begins," he added, "with the scooter operators making $100 a day, and the actual phone snatchers making between $300 to $600 per phone that is stolen." 

Kenny explained that the thieves then bring the phones to Parra's home in the Bronx, where he "employs a tech guy who is able to hack into the stolen phones where he gains access to the victim's financial and banking apps. He then uses the phones to "make illegal transactions and fraudulent purchases in the United States and South America," and when the victims' bank accounts are emptied, the phones are shipped to Colombia to be "reprogrammed." 

Parra, who was released on bail in December after getting a mugshot taken and being arrested for grand larceny just months after arriving in the US, is still on the run. 

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