It’s a transgression question that has raised fears crossed the city: robbers connected mopeds snatching people’s phones from their hands and speeding off.
In 1 particularly brazen attack, the moped-riding bandits dragged a 62-year-old pistillate down a Brooklyn thoroughfare successful December.
After the phones are stolen, the victims’ slope and currency accounts are drained of cash, with fraudulent transactions successful some the US and South America, and the phones themselves sent to Colombia to beryllium wiped, reprogrammed and sold.
Now The Post tin disclose that the signifier of robberies is being linked by instrumentality enforcement to a brutal Venezuelan pack which is sending its members to New York arsenic portion of the migrant question — and utilizing its sprawling transgression empire to launder the proceeds of the crimes.
Until caller weeks constabulary had been acrophobic astir rises successful thefts and robberies successful the metropolis — specified arsenic a spate of pickpocketing connected the subway strategy and astir the Rockefeller Center Christmas histrion — being linked to low-level, unorganized criminals who were among the estimated 170,000 migrants who person arrived successful the metropolis since the commencement of 2023.
But sources archer The Post that the brutal Venezuelan “Tren de Aragua” pack has moved into New York by having its members transverse the confederate borderline and assertion asylum, and is apt down galore of the moped robberies.
It is the lone caller pack truthful acold being tracked among the caller migrant arrivals successful the city, sources say.
The NYPD has not truthful acold discussed the pack publically — but astatine a briefing past week, elder officers described a signifier of moped robberies which The Post is told person the hallmarks of Tren de Aragua.
Separately, sources told The Post past Saturday that determination were concerns a pack which assaulted a constabulary serviceman successful Times Square could beryllium linked to Tren de Aragua. It was unclear if the 15-year-old Venezuelan arrested Friday implicit the Times Square shooting of a tourer has ties to the gang.
Last month, a fishy believed to beryllium connected to Tren de Aragua was arrested aft the brutal execution of a retired Venezuelan constabulary serviceman who was lured to his decease successful Miami by a radical of prostitutes.
And successful Chicago, Cook County Sheriff Department’s quality part has been revealed by NBC5 Chicago to beryllium tracking its beingness successful the city.
South American transgression lords
Tren de Aragua, meaning Aragua Train, started successful 2012 among commercialized national members successful the Aragua state of Venezuela who turned a planned railroad into an accidental for grift, and has exploded since past into a convulsive pack progressive successful robberies, drug-dealing and quality trafficking crossed South America.
The Venezuelan authorities officially sees it arsenic a transgression endeavor and sent successful 11,000 soldiers connected September 23 past twelvemonth to instrumentality backmost a situation nether the gang’s power successful Tocorón, successful the country’s interior.
But, The Post is told, its members person besides been utilized arsenic enforcers for the Cartel of the Suns cause trafficking web which the US Department of Justice alleges is tally by Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro from his statesmanlike palace successful Caracas.
They person present established presences successful Columbia, Peru, Brazil and Chile nether person Niño Guerrero (“Warrior Kid”) whose existent sanction is Héctor Rustherford Guerrero Flores and who escaped the situation raid safely on with astir 80 different elder leaders.
Their convulsive practices person shocked adjacent the astir hardened successful South America, peculiarly for their willingness to termination women.
Ammon Blair, a erstwhile Border Patrol cause and elder chap astatine the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a blimpish deliberation tank, said: “They spell into section economies wherever determination are Venezuelans and instrumentality implicit the transgression underground utilizing excessive force.
“They’ll commencement shooting prostitutes controlled by rival gangs and execute the executions unrecorded connected societal media successful bid to found their presence.”
In Colombia successful January, a bid of brutal murders saw radical lured to edifice rooms by Tren de Arauga members, tortured and killed, with their ordeals recorded for different pack members. One young antheral was tied manus and foot, strangled with a cablegram and beaten with a hammer earlier being shot.
The gang’s person successful Colombia, José Manuel Vera, calls himself “Satan,” and was arrested aft trying to extort businesses successful a bid of towns, with bloodthirsty demands sent successful WhatsApp dependable notes.
When the owners did not wage up, their employees were kidnapped tortured and dismembered, their assemblage parts bound successful tarps and dumped extracurricular the businesses.
In Lima, Peru, past February, a transgender prostitute was changeable constituent blank 31 times and the execution enactment connected societal media — a informing that Tren de Aragua present ran city’s the enactment trade. It was the commencement of a bloodbath: 24 Lima prostitutes were murdered successful 2023, seemingly by the gang.
In Chile, dismembered victims’ bones person been recovered successful cement astatine gathering sites, and the country’s authoritative held criss talks with his Columbian counterpart astir the gang’s menace to instrumentality and order.
Exploiting the border
Gang members began making their mode from Venezuela to the confederate US borderline successful 2017, Blair told The Post.
That year, determination were astir 2,800 “encounters” with Venezuelan migrants astatine the border, according to US Custom and Border Protection statistics.
But from October 2022 to September 2023, much than 334,000 Venezuelans crossed the borderline — 2nd lone to 735,000 Mexicans — with Tren de Aragua playing a cardinal portion successful trafficking galore from Venezuela.
“When they crossed the borderline into Colombia, they began to power everyone’s passage, charging fees to different Venezuelans to marque the crossing,” said Robert Almonte, a information advisor and erstwhile El Paso US Marshal.
Border Patrol agents apprehended 41 Tren de Aragua members crossing the borderline betwixt October 2022 and September 2023, according to US Customs and Border Protection.
The lone signs that they beryllium to the ruthless radical are tattoos featuring rifles and skulls, Almonte said — though they person started telling caller members not to get tattoos to evade police.
They besides favour tattoos of silhouetted hoops players and hoops jerseys emblazoned with Michael Jordan’s and LeBron James’ number, “23” — a notation to the day of the situation raid.
Alamonte said the radical is truthful brazen that a Texas authorities anti-gang task unit precocious documented them charging chap Venezuelans to usage national toilet facilities astatine the border.
Recruiting successful NYC’s shelters
Tren de Aragua members are among the arrivals successful New York, but besides usage the surge of caller migrants astatine shelters successful the metropolis to enlistee criminals.
The NYPD’s Chief of Detectives, Joseph Kenny, revealed past week however cops had busted 1 acceptable of moped bandits — and though helium did not accidental they were from Tren de Aragua, sources told The Post that the signifier is precisely however the Venezuelan pack has been operating successful South America cities.
Kenny said past Monday that 62 robberies successful the metropolis since November 2023, 34 of them successful Manhattan, had been linked to the azygous radical of astatine slightest 14 people, who utilized two-man moped crews to snatch victim’s phones and, due to the fact that the bulk of victims were women, purses.
Most of the robbers were surviving successful the migrant shelters, and had received orders via WhatsApp from a mastermind Chief Kenny named arsenic Victor Parra, a 30-year-old Venezuelan migrant who arrived past year.
“Parra volition nonstop retired circumstantial orders for what benignant of telephone helium is looking for,” Chief Kenny said.
“Once the messages are received, the transgression question begins with the scooter operators making $100 a time and the existent telephone snatcher making betwixt $300 to $600 per telephone that is stolen.”
Sources told The Post that the signifier matched however Tren de Aragua operates successful South America, with pack members recruiting among the young men — successful New York’s case, successful migrant shelters — and utilizing stolen scooters to determination astir the city.
Because Tren de Aragua is progressive successful quality trafficking, pack recruiters whitethorn besides person telephone numbers for galore of the migrants who travel to New York, allowing them to blast wide WhatsApp messages to scores oregon hundreds of radical astatine a time.
Turning phones into ‘gold’
Kenny said that the stolen phones had been taken to alleged mastermind Parra’s location — a NYCHA flat successful the Parkside Houses successful the Bronx — wherever a “hacker” drained them of cash. A raid aboriginal past Monday uncovered 22 stolen phones and victims’ IDs.
But the existent robbers play a important part. The operator maneuvers the moped and the grabber latches onto a phone, wrenching it from the unfortunate — who crucially, was utilizing it.
Phone successful hand, the grabber, riding connected the backmost of the bike, past stops the telephone from locking.
“He whitethorn support tapping it,” Jonathan S. Weissman, cybersecurity prof astatine Rochester Institute of Technology, told The Post. “Or other helium tin acceptable the telephone to ‘never’ connected auto-lock. That way, the thieves support it live without needing to pat the screen.”
Once delivered to the harmless location the hackers get to work, hunting for slope accounts, outgo apps and recognition cards.
According to experts, they tin alteration codes, making it hard for victims to halt the speedy ransacking of their accounts. Having stolen IDs from purses besides helps them hack.
“Most of the information codes tin beryllium reset via SMS,” Jayson E. Street, main adversarial serviceman for Secure Yetti, told The Post. “You pass to the apps that you forgot your passcodes. They tin past beryllium reset by putting successful the that verification codes that are sent to the phone.”
The hacked phones tin beryllium exceptionally valuable. “The apps are utilized to marque amerciable transactions and fraudulent purchases successful the United States and South America,” the NYPD’s Kenny.
With wealth drained oregon the accounts frozen by the victim, the telephone is inactive valuable: it is shipped to Colombia, Chief Kenny said.
Sources told The Post that Tren de Aragua has a web carrying retired the work, with phones wiped by its operatives successful Bogotá past sold crossed South America.
Said Weissman, “It’s the equivalent of melting down stolen gold.”
At the NYPD’s property conference, Chief Kenny warned the robbery gangs were “ghosts”. “No transgression history, nary photos, nary compartment phone, nary societal media. Sometimes we’re adjacent unclear connected a sanction oregon a day of birth.”
Of the 14 identified arsenic being successful the robbery gang, cops person truthful acold arrested 7 and Varra remains connected the run.
NYPD sources said migrants person exploited the ID NYC strategy by getting antithetic IDs astatine the Roosevelt and Floyd Bennett Field shelters.
Statistics amusement robberies up 9% citywide successful 2024, from 1,164 to 1,278, compared to the aforesaid play successful 2023, and up 14% connected the aforesaid play successful 2022.
Grand larcenies — theft of much than $1,000, which would see mobile phones which were drained of currency — were besides up 1.6%, to 3,726, for the 4 weeks ending February 4, compared to 3,666 for the aforesaid 4 weeks successful 2023.
But Tren de Aragua’s biggest shade is its leader, Niño Guerrero. An Interpol “red” notice, requesting his arrest, warns that the mastermind’s whereabouts is unknown.
Among the countries helium could beryllium in: The United States.