Illegal Immigrants Answer the Call – Stealing Phones to Drain Victims' Bank Accounts
By Mindy Cohn
The NYC moped grab'n-go phone snatchers are doing much worse things than simply stealing cell phones.
According to the NYPD, a gang of Venezuelan illegal immigrants living in the free shelter system provided by NYC hired hackers to gain access to banking apps on the stolen phones and drain the accounts one by one in a high-tech criminal operation that so far has included grabbing the cellphones from at least 62 women in NYC.
As of last week, the NYPD arrested at least seven illegal Venezuelan immigrants in the Bronx for this crime.
The NYPD reports that the mafia-style organized crime group is led by Venezuelan Victor Perra, age 30, who gains access to the stolen cell phone through a hacker and then makes countless fraudulent purchases to send to Colombia via Miami and Houston wiping out the victim's bank accounts.
The hackers get into Apple Pay, Venmo, and Zelle accounts as well to make purchases, transfer money, and even withdraw cash. The cell phones are shipped overseas after that.
Perra, who arrived as an illegal immigrant in 2023, was freed on bail in December after being charged with grand larceny and has been missing since his release.
Perra recruits his moped gang using WhatsApp messages, requesting specific models of phones. The moped drivers earn $100 a day, while those who snatch the phone are paid between $300-$600 for each phone.
Given that those who were arrested walked away scott-free a short while later, it seems safe to say that the operation will continue in full force, and a pedestrian's best bet is to be aware of his surroundings while on the streets of New York, and that includes keeping cellphones safely out of sight.