Migrant gang behind 62 moped robberies on New Yorkers are branded ‘ghost criminals’ as NYPD hunt for Venezuelan ringleader who was freed after being arrested in December
A group of migrants operate as a ‘ghost’ criminal enterprise in New York City – led by a Venezuelan ringleader who was released by authorities in December.
At least five migrants were arrested Monday morning in a sting operation by the NYPD targeting a gang of criminals who use stolen mopeds and scooters to violently snatch phones and wallets from pedestrians, mostly women.
Police are still looking for the lead – Venezuelan citizen Victor Parra, 30, who was not at home when police served a search warrant at his alleged Bronx hideout. Officials believe he entered the country sometime in 2023 and was released on bail in December after being charged with grand theft.
Parra led an elaborate scheme where he would make calls for stolen phones using a group on the messaging platform What’s App, police said Monday.
Once migrants brought the iPhones to the home in the Bronx, a suspect would break into them to access the victim’s Apple Pay function. Once they drained the accounts, the phones were sent to Miami or Colombia to be reprogrammed, according to the NYPD.
A group of migrants operated as a ‘ghost’ criminal enterprise in New York
Police are still looking for the lead – Venezuelan citizen Victor Parra, 30, who was not home when police served a search warrant at his home in the Bronx.
NYPD Inspector Nicholas Fiore said Parra convinced others to “go and do his dirty work.”
‘He caused a lot of trouble in New York City. And hopefully we’ll get him, we’ll get some progress on this,’ Fiore added.
One of the phone robberies was captured in a horrifying video that police shared on Monday.
NYPD Assistant Commissioner Kaz Daughtry said: ‘Most migrants come to NYC looking for a better life. Unfortunately, some come to commit crime. Today we made tremendous progress in the biggest robbery pattern plaguing our city.
‘Our message is simple – commit a crime in our city and we will find you and bring you to justice!’
Mayor Eric Adams went along for the sting operation and later appeared at a press conference with the police, explaining that he went along because he is a ‘general who leads from the front’.
‘It’s not about the migrants and asylum seekers, it’s about those who break the law. It doesn’t matter where you’re from and where you’re from,” the Democrat said.
The police have so far named a total of nine suspects, from Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia, in the case – Cleyber Andrade (19) and Juan Uzcatgui (23), Yan Jimenez (25), Anthony Ramos (21), Richard Saledo (21) , Beike Jimenez , 21, Maria Manaura, 32, and Samuel Castro, 27.
They all have previous theft records and have listed their residences as migrant shelters in the city.
Police said it is particularly difficult to catch these criminals because they often change their aliases and swap identities and birthdays, making them ‘ghost criminals’.
The moment a migrant on a moped dragged a woman along a New York street to steal her phone was captured in horrific footage shared by police
The suspects allegedly stole the iPhones to use the Apple Pay feature and used the owners’ credit cards to purchase items
Monday’s arrests come after another video showed a dozen migrants assaulting two police officers in Times Square late last month.
A Manhattan judge has released at least five asylum seekers without bail after they were charged with the assault. Only one of the suspects remains in prison.
Four of the suspects reportedly fled the city after being charged and released after giving false names to a charity that helps migrants get bus tickets.
Many of the migrants were already known to the police on charges of petty theft and shoplifting.
According to the New York Post, the migrants charged in the assault are also part of a phone robbery scheme.
“They buy cars back in Ecuador and Venezuela,” a police source told the Post. ‘They put swimming pools in their houses there. All this money goes back and forth. That’s why the theft is getting out of control. It’s amazing what they do.’
Mayor Eric Adams went along for the sting operation and later appeared at a press conference with police
Officer Nicholas Fiore said police were still looking for the leader of the crime ring, who was allegedly looking for migrants to do ‘his dirty work’.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Braggs defended the decision to release the suspects, but said Saturday he would present evidence against them to a grand jury.
New York City is buckling under the weight of a massive influx of asylum seekers, with more than 170,000 arriving since spring 2022.
Adams initially welcomed the migrants, but has since warned that the situation will ‘destroy’ the city as we know it. Meanwhile, his pleas for help from the federal government were ignored.
In the city’s latest controversial move to deal with the migrants, Adams announced a $53 million program to give prepaid credit cards to migrant families with children.
It was revealed yesterday that migrants housed in one of the city’s hotels will receive pre-paid cards to buy food and baby supplies, instead of the city providing meals that the migrants often did not want.
Adams estimated the $53 million scheme would save the city $600,000 a month, or $7.2 million annually, drawing ire from many across the country, including native New Yorkers like rapper 50 Cent.
Migrants must sign an affidavit promising to use the cards only for food and baby supplies, or else have them cut off.
Cops are still on the lookout for at least eight other men involved in the Times Square brawl
It is unclear how New York City will know if they are being used in bodegas as intended.
The amount on each card will depend on individual circumstances. It’s unclear how city officials will check if cards are being misused — or whether the scheme will exacerbate the crisis by encouraging other migrants to head to the Big Apple in hopes of receiving free money.
A family of four can be provided with almost $1,000 each month, which is $35 a day for food for the four.
Right now, each migrant meal costs $11, so feeding a family of four for a day can cost up to $132.
Cards will be refilled every 28 days.