New York City police announced a property crime crackdown and several arrests Monday after a raid on a migrant robbery ring with ties to Venezuela and a method involving using powered scooters — as a group of suspects in an attack on the NYPD remains unaccounted for.
“In recent months, a wave of migrant crime has washed over our city, but by no means do the individuals committing these crimes represent the vast number of people coming to New York to build a better life,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said during an afternoon news briefing.
He likened the gang to a group of ghosts — undocumented illegal immigrants with no phones, no social media and sometimes no known names or dates of birth.
Many of the suspects live in the migrant shelter system and recently arrived in the U.S., according to NYPD leaders.
Speaking at a news briefing Monday afternoon, NYPD leaders named eight suspects in connection with the ring: alleged mastermind Victor Parra, as well as Cleyber Andrada, Juan Uzcatgui, Yan Jimenez, Anthony Ramos, Richard Saledo, Beike Jimenez and Maria Manaura.
Parra would allegedly send out a notice for specific models of phones he wanted, linking crooks from around the Big Apple who may not have even known one another for robbery missions, police said. Next, they would steal scooters and hit the streets to swipe phones and purses away from victims.
A “tech guy” would then allegedly hack the stolen phones, access banking and financial apps and drain the accounts, police said. If they ran dry or the owners placed a lock on their money, the stolen phones would then be sent around the country or to Colombia to be reprogrammed and sold.
Police made a round of arrests late Sunday and served a search warrant in the Bronx early Monday morning, authorities said.
The warrant was on Parra’s home, but he wasn’t there. Police recovered 22 stolen phones and arrested the “tech guy” inside, however.
Most of the suspects lived in the city’s migrant shelter system, police said. The ring targeted four of the city’s five boroughs, with only Staten Island spared.
NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell told FOX 5 New York earlier in the day that a spike in robberies and purse snatching involving mopeds or scooters had a direct correlation with the current migrant crisis, which has overwhelmed the Big Apple.
“Big impact on crime, this migrant Venezuelan crew that’s preying on our city,” Chell said. “We cannot have this anymore. We’ve gotta stop it.”
While police spoke sternly about the immigration problem, Adams blamed Republicans in Washington for the issue and noted that out of nearly 200,000 migrants and asylum seekers who have recently arrived in New York City, only a handful have been charged with the organized crime ring.
“Republicans have blocked real immigration reform for many years,” Adams said. “It is time for us to deal with this real issue that is impacting cities, not only New York.”
Separately, several of the suspects seen kicking a pair of NYPD officers in the head on security video last week have ties to a Venezuelan theft ring, according to law enforcement sources.
There was no firm connection between the robbery ring and the police assault, except that both groups had ties to Venezuelan nationals and the migrant shelters.
Separately, investigators said earlier Monday that the arrests were also tied to a “Venezuelan crew” suspected in more than 60 purse and phone robberies around the city. But there was no evidence that the two separate groups share a connection.
But critics say New York’s Democrat-led bail reforms, which allow many criminals to walk free shortly after their arrests, make any kind of law enforcement crackdown worthless.
Even Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul criticized the progressive Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg last week after his office failed to have the court set bail for almost all of the NYPD attack suspects.
“We all have a role here,” Adams told reporters. “The role of the police department is to arrest, the role of the prosecutors, is to prosecute, and the role of the federal government, if a person is found guilty of a crime, is to deport.”
When asked if he would be willing to dismantle New York’s sanctuary city policies, the mayor laughed and deflected.
“There’s a law in this city that states what we can do with migrants and asylum seekers and undocumented,” he added. “That’s the law. I didn’t pass that law.”
The most recent police statistics, which cover the month of January, show a slight dip in crime compared to the same month in 2023.
Robberies, however, continue to climb — rising by 5.4% last month and 9% year over year as of Sunday morning.
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