Cops have busted alleged members of a crime ring that pulled off a multi-borough robbery streak in which dozens of cell phones were snatched out of unsuspecting New Yorkers’ hands, NYPD brass and Mayor Adams announced.
The crew, which includes a number of migrants, is responsible for at least 62 thefts involving hacked financial data in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, officials said Monday.
The busts came after police, working alongside U.S. Marshals, executed a warrant at an apartment on Bronx Park East near Adee Ave. in Allerton around 5:30 a.m., police said.
Inside the residence, which belongs to 30-year-old ring leader Victor Parra, were 22 stolen phones and victims’ IDs, cops said. Parra was not at home at the time and is still in the wind.
Among those taken into custody was Parra’s lead tech guy who hacks into the stolen phones, Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said at a news conference.
“He gains access to the victim’s financial and banking apps,” Kenny said of that suspect. “These apps are used to make illegal transactions and fraudulent purchases in the United State as well as South America.”
Seven people have been busted in the Bronx, five of them migrants, officials said.
“It doesn’t matter if a person is a migrant asylum seeker or if the person is a long-term New Yorker,” Mayor Adams said at the press conference. “You break the law, you will be investigated and it will be handled by our criminal justice system.”
In Parra’s scheme, when the looted accounts were empty or victims put holds on their accounts, he shipped the phones to Colombia to be reprogrammed, police said.
Cops believe there are 14 people in the crew and are working to nab the others involved.
The robberies date back to November, when most of the men first arrived in the city. The latest robbery happened Sunday night in Chinatown, cops said.
The crew has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars in property and accounts, they added.
“This network of thieves predominantly live in the migrant shelter system,” Kenny said. “They use social media platforms to organize and coordinate their thefts.”
Police believe Parra’s scam uses WhatsApp to blast out a city-wide message to thieves willing to steal phones, making it difficult for cops to pin down who is involved.
“[These suspects] are part of a sophisticated criminal enterprise made up of migrants who have recently arrived in the United States,” said Police Commissioner Edward Caban. “They’re essentially ghost criminals — no criminal history, no photos, no cell phone, no social media.
“Sometimes, we’re even unclear on a name or a date of birth,” he added. “And on top of that, these operations are extremely sophisticated.”
Monday’s bust came amid a rise in tensions since a number of migrant men were caught on video beating NYPD cops near Times Square on Jan. 27. Neither Parra nor his crew are believed to have any connection to the incident, authorities said, though cops are investigating possible connections to a Venezuelan gang based on social media posts, tattoos and statements made.
“I want to reiterate the overwhelming number of 170,000-plus migrant asylum seekers are [here] to continue the next leg of their journey of pursing the American dream,” the mayor said.
Adams, a former police captain, joined cops on the early-hours bust on Monday, an unusual move for the city’s highest elected.
“I hear people often asking, ‘Why are you there as the mayor?’” he said. “Because I’m the general and generals lead from the front. They don’t send troops into battle and ask, ‘How was the war?’”
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