String of cellphone robberies leads to charges against 7 migrants, 7 others still sought

The NYPD is currently conducting a search for seven individuals who are believed to be part of a highly organized cellphone crime operation, allegedly operated by migrants in New York City.

The mastermind behind the 14-member operation, which involves hacking into stolen phones to drain victims’ bank accounts, has been identified as 30-year-old Victor Parra, according to the police.

The investigators are facing a unique challenge as they have arrested seven suspects, all of whom are migrants from Venezuela.

Cleyber Andrade, a 20-year-old individual, was arraigned on Tuesday evening and is currently being held on a bail amount of $10,000. He is facing six charges of grand larceny in the fourth degree as well as six charges of criminal possession of stolen property.

Juane Uzcatgui, 23, cannot be released on bail due to the nature of the charges he is facing. The charges against him include two counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree and two counts of stolen property.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office stated that they are requesting the highest level of supervised release for Uzcatgui. They explained that they cannot request bail for the defendant due to the current statutory framework.

The other suspects were scheduled to appear in Bronx Criminal Court on Tuesday where they faced multiple charges, including grand larceny, tampering with evidence, and criminal possession of stolen property.

According to the police, there have been a series of 62 phone thefts involving thieves riding scooters and mopeds. These criminals have been targeting women, snatching their purses and phones while they are walking on the street or using the subway system.

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The police revealed that the victims were taken to the residence of the supposed crew leader, where a skilled “tech guy” would hack their phones in order to gain unauthorized access to their banking apps. This was done with the intention of making fraudulent purchases both in the United States and Central America.

According to officials, the suspects managed to siphon off substantial amounts of money from victims’ bank accounts. Subsequently, the phones were reportedly sent to Colombia, where they underwent a complete data wipe.

According to the police, Parra, who is currently being sought, operated the criminal organization that primarily consisted of migrants living in the city’s system from his apartment. Parra came to the country from Venezuela last year and had a court appearance in December on a grand larceny charge.

According to Chief of Detectives Joe Kenny, the organized thieves utilize social media platforms as a means to plan and execute their thefts. Victor Parra, the crew’s leader, employs WhatsApp to send out a message indicating his need for phones.

Authorities claim that a scooter operator could earn $100, while a phone snatcher could make anywhere from $300 to $600.

During a search on Monday, the police found 22 stolen phones and the identification of the victims at Parra’s home.

The string of thefts began in November 2023 on the Upper East Side, with the most recent incident taking place in Chinatown on Sunday night. These thefts have been reported in every borough except Staten Island, with Manhattan experiencing nearly 56% of the incidents.

During a recent interview in Albany, Mayor Eric Adams was questioned about whether he would consider issuing an executive order to eliminate the restrictions that currently prevent the NYPD from working together with ICE.

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According to Adams, individuals who commit multiple felonies in our city should be deported by the federal government. He emphasized that residing in the country and enjoying the American Dream is a privilege that should not be granted to those who repeatedly break the law. Adams clarified that he does not possess the authority to enforce such actions, as it would be up to the City Council to make that decision.

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