WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (PIX11) — More than a dozen people are under arrest after federal agents and NYPD officers swooped in en masse at at least 12 locations on either side of the Hudson on Wednesday. Their targets were Trinitarios gang members who have carried out illegal drug and weapons activities that have made neighborhoods unsafe, officials said.
However, some people, including Leandra Feliz, the mother of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, who died at the hands of Trinitarios gang members, wonder if Wednesday’s raids will be enough to stem the problem.
Starting at 6 a.m. through the early afternoon, agents and officers entered storefronts and buildings from 152nd Street to 174th Street, and at a building in Hackensack, New Jersey.
On the case were agents from Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, as well as Secret Service agents and plainclothes NYPD officers.
Most of their work was concentrated in a city block known as “The Set” by the gang members, according to law enforcement. It is bordered by 174th Street, 175th Street and Amsterdam and Audubon avenues.
Agents said that it was the center of a narcotics trafficking network that the 16 Trinitarios members operated, among other crimes.
Agents also raided a barbershop on Broadway near 152nd Street. There, they said, they barged into an illegal gambling activity on Wednesday morning, shocking the people inside.
However, a man who passes by near the barbershop on his way to work most days said that he wasn’t surprised to learn about it.
“There’ll always be a bunch of people going in, going out, going in, going out, 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. in the morning,” he said. “I think there’s no haircut going on in here, you know?”
Some residents agreed, but said that the effects of the alleged criminality is limited.
“There is gang activity up here without a doubt,” a woman who lives nearby said, “but they keep amongst themselves.”
However, federal agents and NYPD officers said that the 16 alleged Trinitarios gang members terrorize the community, not only through drug trafficking, but also through trafficking guns and illegal gambling.
The criminal activity has led to shootings and even more crimes, some of which have proved fatal, prosectors said.
The Trinitarios were notoriously connected to the mistaken identity slaying of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz. The killing made international headlines when it happened in June 2018. Thirteen men are now behind bars for that crime, serving sentences ranging from 12 years to life without parole.
Junior’s mother, Leandra Feliz, said that she supports the Wednesday raids, but she is concerned that what will happen going forward to the suspects are in custody may not reduce crime as much as law enforcement intends.
“When they get to the courthouse,” Feliz said in an interview, “they’re going to start to file [motions], like they didn’t do this, they didn’t do that, and then they’re going to let them go.”
She called for more severe penalties for people found to be in gangs.
“We need a new law,” she said, “a very, very hard law for gang members, like the same law as the terrorists.”
“Because that’s what they are,” she said. “Terrorists.”
Federal officials joined with NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell in releasing the names of the people who’ve been charged, who call themselves the 174th Street Crew, officials said.
In custody are 13 people:
- Jeriel Abreu
- Aneudy Alvarado
- Alvin Eusebio
- Alexander Francisco
- Alex Garcia
- David Glover
- Enmanuel Liriano
- Joan Mercedes
- Jawan Mills
- Lazareth Paulino
- Aristides Ramirez
- Edward Rodriguez
- Christopher Santos
Officials said that three men remain at large:
- Eddy “Malibu” Caminero
- Ray Eduardo
- Jonathan “J.R.” Rodriguez