NYPD busts migrant gang involved in organized theft, fraud, and violence

NEW YORK, NY – A significant crackdown on property crime has been initiated by the New York Police Department (NYPD), following the exposure of a migrant gang with Venezuelan ties. The gang, known for their stolen scooter operations, was unveiled on Monday, leading to a series of arrests. However, a group of suspects implicated in a previous attack on NYPD officers are still at large.

In a press conference on Monday, NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban underscored that these criminals do not reflect the majority of immigrants who come to New York seeking a better life. The gang members, he explained, are akin to phantoms, undocumented immigrants with no digital trace or sometimes even known identities.

The majority of these suspects are recent arrivals in the U.S., residing in the city’s migrant shelter system. According to NYPD leaders, the crime ring was masterminded by Victor Parra, who allegedly coordinated theft missions targeting specific models of phones. The gang used stolen scooters for swift getaways after snatching phones and purses from their victims.

A tech specialist within the gang would then hack into the stolen phones, draining the victims’ accounts through their banking and financial apps. If the accounts were emptied or locked by the owners, the phones would be sent across the country or to Colombia to be reprogrammed and resold.

Early Monday morning, the NYPD executed a search warrant at Parra’s home in the Bronx. Although Parra was not present, officers recovered 22 stolen phones and arrested the alleged tech specialist. The gang’s activities reached across four of the city’s five boroughs, with Staten Island being the only exception.

Despite the police action, Mayor Eric Adams blamed Republicans in Washington for blocking immigration reform, pointing out that only a small percentage of the nearly 200,000 recent migrants and asylum seekers in New York City were involved in the crime ring.

The city’s Democrat-led bail reforms have been criticized by those who argue they allow criminals to be released shortly after their arrests, undermining the effectiveness of law enforcement. This criticism was echoed last week by Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, who called out Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for his office’s failure to set bail for most of the NYPD attack suspects.

When questioned about the city’s sanctuary policies, Mayor Adams clarified that the police’s role is to arrest, the prosecutors’ role is to prosecute, and the federal government’s role is to deport if a person is found guilty of a crime.