Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Raymond W. Kelly, the Commissioner of the Police Department for the City of New York ("NYPD"), Brian R. Crowell, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"), Joseph Anarumo Jr., the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF"), and James T. Hayes, Jr., the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ("ICE") Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI"), today announced the unsealing of a Superseding Indictment charging 40 members and associates of the Bronx Trinitarios Gang ("BTG") with racketeering, murder, attempted murder, narcotics, and firearms offenses. The original Indictment, filed in December 2011 against 50 members of BTG, alleged that the gang operated as a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) and was responsible for certain narcotics and firearms trafficking offenses. Today’s Superseding Indictment against 26 new defendants and 14 already charged, adds additional racketeering offenses and violent crimes including nine murders in aid of racketeering, 10 conspiracies to commit murder in aid of racketeering, and 24 assaults and attempted murders in aid of racketeering. It also includes additional narcotics conspiracy and firearms offenses - all related to the defendants’ participation in BTG. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.
In 2009 and 2010, 43 members of the Manhattan Trinitarios Gang were charged with various racketeering, murder, and narcotics offenses, bringing the total number of defendants charged in the past three years for their alleged involvement with the Trinitarios, 119.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: "Today's indictment is a catalogue of crimes allegedly committed by the Bronx Trinitarios Gang – a highly-organized criminal machine that ruthlessly guarded its turf, blithely murdered its rivals, and brutally punished even its own members for any transgression of arbitrary gang rules, turning portions of New York City into a virtual shooting gallery. These charges remind us that the gangs of New York are alive and well, but we are dedicated to extinguishing them one by one. With today's takedown, and the two that preceded it, the Trinitarios may not yet be extinct, but they are without question an endangered species. Unless you like jail or death, there is no reason to have anything to do with these gangs."
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Brian R. Crowell said: "This is our third focused and significant step to improve upon the safety and quality of life for the good citizens of Manhattan, Marble Hill and Yonkers neighborhoods. Twenty-six new defendants and 14 previously charged members of the Trinitarios Street Gang have been indicted for drug trafficking and/or murder or attempted murder. We allege this drug trafficking organization used violence, guns and threats, including murder, to facilitate their drug distribution. Our teams of NYPD Officers, Detectives, and Special Agents are committed to seeing the members of the community get to school, get to work, and enjoy their neighborhoods without fear of violence or intimidation from any drug gang members."
NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said: "Undoubtedly there will be more young men and women attracted to lives of crime, just as there will be more takedowns to follow. But by being persistent over the last decade, the NYPD, together with Federal agents and prosecutors have helped make New York safer each year, and in the process have made New York the safest big city in America."
ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Joseph Anarumo Jr. said: "Cooperation between law enforcement and its ability to work side- by-side on the frontlines is the cornerstone of this investigation. The Trinitarios Gang investigation is a shining example of what can be accomplished when we work together. In this instance, alleged armed and violent criminals have been removed from our city."
ICE HSI Special Agent-in-Charge James T. Hayes said: "The arrests and charges announced today disrupted a violent, transnational street gang that allegedly ordered its members to indiscriminately assault and kill gang rivals and that spread tremendous fear throughout New York City communities. This operation shows our collective resolve to identify, arrest, and prosecute anyone involved in violent crimes that place our neighborhoods at risk."
According to the allegations in the Indictments filed in Manhattan federal court, other publicly filed documents, and statements made in court:
The BTG is a criminal organization that operates primarily in the Bronx, New York. It started in the prison system in the late 1980’s and subsequently spread to the streets. Prior to being charged in the December 2011 Indictment, the gang was run by LEONIDES SIERRA from his prison cell in Attica Prison where he was serving a 22-year sentence on state murder charges. SIERRA was taken into federal custody only weeks before he attempted to seek his release at a scheduled parole board hearing. In addition to SIERRA, RICHARD GONZALEZ, CARLOS URENA, FELIX LOPEZ-CABRERA, EDWIN CIRIACO, ANIBAL RAMOS, RAYMOND SOSA, ALEJANDRO SORIANO, ANTONIO PENA, and MARIA MEJIA were leaders and members of the BTG who directed other members to carry out illegal activities as part of the racketeering conspiracy and to accomplish BTG’s goals of enhancing its power, protecting its turf from rival gangs including, the Dominicans Don’t Play ("DDP"), the Bloods, the Crips, the Latin Kings, and others, and enriching its members. Those activities included murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, kidnapping, and narcotics trafficking. Many members belonged to smaller factions within the BTG that went by the following names: the "Bad Boys," the "Bad Barbies," "El Combo," "Violating All Bitches," and the "One Seven Hoes."
Twenty-eight defendants are charged with committing nine murders that occurred between 2005 and 2010 in the Bronx and Yonkers. Five of the nine murder victims were teenagers at the times of their deaths. The murders charged include the following:
- The September 3, 2005 murder of Ka’Shawn Phillips, 16, in the vicinity of 78 Saratoga Avenue, Yonkers, New York;
- The December 11, 2005 murder of Miguel Perez, 20, in the vicinity of 2463 Marion Avenue, Bronx, New York;
- The March 31, 2009 murder of Raymond Casul, 23, in the vicinity of 271 West Kingsbridge Road, Bronx, New York;
- The September 4, 2009 murder of David Avila-Gomez, 23, in the vicinity of 15 Mount Carmel Place, Yonkers, New York;
- The November 29, 2009 murder of Issi Dominguez, 17, in the vicinity of 2180 Tiebout Avenue, Bronx, New York;
- The March 19, 2010 murder of Orlando Salgado, 27, in the vicinity of 283 East 197th Street, Bronx, New York;
- The May 23, 2010 murders of Raffy Tavares and Irving Cruz, both 19, in the vicinity of 81 East 181st Street, Bronx, New York; and
- The November 20, 2010 murder of Freddy Polanco, 19, in the vicinity of 75 West 190th Street, Bronx, New York.
Today’s Superseding Indictment also charges 27 defendants with 10 murder conspiracies, some of which were ordered by SIERRA while he was imprisoned at Attica. For example, between 2006 and 2008, he ordered members of BTG to kill an unnamed Victim ("Victim-17") because he was believed to be a homosexual, which violated the gang’s rules. Twenty-three defendants are also charged with 24 attempted murders, 22 of which were committed against rival gang members. For example, in 2011, GONZALEZ and URENA attempted to kill two members of the DDPs who had insulted the BTG.
To date, agents and officers have conducted nearly 100 undercover purchases of narcotics and firearms, including assault weapons, from the defendants. They have seized, among other evidence: numerous firearms with ammunition; two machetes; multiple knives; quantities of marijuana; cocaine; heroin; and ecstasy. During the investigation, agents and officers also intercepted thousands of wiretap and prison calls in which various members and associates of the Gang discussed their racketeering activities.
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In a coordinated arrest effort, 18 defendants were arrested in New York late last night and early this morning. They will be presented later this afternoon in Manhattan federal court. The first 14 defendants listed in the Indictment were already in federal custody on the initial Indictment in this case, and remain in custody. Four defendants, RAYMOND SOSA, MIGUEL DELANCE, MICHAEL CABRERA, and ARGENIS GUILLEN, were already in custody on state charges, and one defendant, LENIN MOREL, was in the custody of immigration officials. Those five defendants were transferred to federal custody this morning. ANTONIO PENA, JULIO BRITO, ALEJANDRO SORIANO, RAMON LIZARDI, and LEWIS SANTOS are currently believed to be in the Dominican Republic and the government will seek their extradition to the United States. The following defendants are still being sought: VLADAMIR DIAZ, HERIBERTO MARTINEZ, JOSE MEJIA, CHRISTIAN NIEVES and HARGELIS VARGAS. A chart identifying each defendant, the charges and the maximum penalties is attached to this release.
Today’s charges stem from a long-term investigation, "Operation Patria," conducted by federal and local law enforcement officers working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Of the 50 defendants originally charged in 2011, 26 have pled guilty.
To date, all but three of the 43 defendants charged in the 2009 and 2010 Indictments have pled guilty to charges associated with the case, including the May 2012 guilty pleas of Jonathan Feliz, the leader of the Manhattan faction of the Trinitarios Gang, to a mandatory minimum term of 30 years in prison for offenses committed in connection with his leadership of the Manhattan faction, and Louinsky Minier, also one of the Gang’s leaders, to charges related to the November 23, 2006 murder of Roy Abreu, in Manhattan.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the NYPD, the DEA, the ATF, and ICE HSI. He also thanked the United States Marshals Service and the City of Yonkers Police Department, and added that the investigation is continuing.
The Office’s Violent Crimes Unit is overseeing the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nola B. Heller, Jessica Ortiz, Rachel Maimin, and Sarah Krissoff are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.