What is Tren de Aragua? The 'violent' Venezuelan gang recruiting NYC migrants

The ongoing migrant crisis in New York City has been a topic of debate for years. 

Now, there's a growing concern over the rise in violent crime in the city among migrants.

Tren de Aragua, which translates to "Aragua Train," is a gang that started nearly twenty years ago in a prison in Venezuela’s Aragua state

Law enforcement officials say the gang has been using WhatsApp to recruit migrants in New York City. 

Many of them have been associated with violent incidents attributed to migrant shelter residents in recent weeks.

The gang has reportedly increased its influence, running extortion rackets and human trafficking networks that target Venezuelan migrants in South America, according to the AP. 

NYPD officials say that members of the gang have been crossing the border along with the larger influx of migrants.

Police say that members of the gang have gone from crimes like shoplifting and stealing cell phones and jewelry to all-out shoot-outs in the streets.

Deputy Inspector Nicholas Fiore of the NYPD's Crimes Against Persons Unit told FOX 5 NY that Tren de Aragua's savage, bloody crimes are similar to MS-13, the violent street gang responsible for dozens of murders throughout the NYC area

What is Tren de Aragua?

Tren de Aragua is a transnational gang founded in a Venezuelan prison that is now involved in multiple criminal enterprises throughout Latin America (AP)

Tren means "train" in Spanish, referencing the gangs' involvement in drug shipments. Aragua is one of the 23 states of Venezuela. Thus, translating to "Aragua Train." 

Authorities warn that the group is looking to expand its international empire.


one of the founders of the Tren de Aragua gang

Kingpins from the brutal Venezuelan gang Tren de Aragua are recruiting NYC migrants for their brazen moped theft ring.

Moped crime ring

Deputy Inspector Nicholas Fiore said the NYPD recorded a "tremendous" surge in moped robberies that they believe are orchestrated by Tren de Aragua recruits.

"There are orders coming from Columbia and from Venezuela, [they move] to Miami and then to New York," Fiore said.

For example, Bernardo Raul Castro-Mata, the Venezuelan migrant accused of shooting two NYPD officers during a traffic stop, confessed to police that gang members instructed him to do it. 

The crimes include one or two thieves on a moped yanking cell phones, jewelry and other valuables from pedestrians. 

Cell phones are a hot commodity in these robberies, as they have found ways to use smartphones to hack into victims' bank accounts.

The phones are then shipped to Columbia and Venezuela.

Most of the suspects arrested for these crimes don't admit to being gang-affiliated. 

Founder of the Tren de Aragua gang arrested

Larry Álvarez, 45, believed to be one of the three founders of the Tren de Aragua, was arrested in Colombia on Monday.

He is wanted in Chile and Venezuela for the alleged crimes of terrorism, financing terrorism, weapons trafficking, extortion and kidnapping, Colombia’s police said.

FOX 5 NY reached out to City Hall about security and metal detectors at the city-run migrant shelters and asked why food containers are not being screened for possible weapons or drugs. 

Officials said that those items are supposed to be screened, and the city is now retraining security personnel at all city-run migrant shelters.