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Venezuelan gang recruit allegedly shoots NYPD officers

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A 19-year-old illegal immigrant charged with shooting two NYPD officers confessed to police that he was recruited by a Venezuelan gang’s New York City “coordinator” to join a crew of moped thieves engaged in snatch-and-grab robberies, law enforcement sources revealed Wednesday.

Bernardo Raul Castro Mata, who illegally entered the US last July through Texas, disclosed that he was encouraged to get distinctive tattoos to signify his allegiance to the Tren de Aragua gang. Mata informed authorities that the gang coordinator in NYC provided members with mopeds, which were used in lucrative cellphone thefts across the city.

Originally from Venezuela, Mata arrived at a Queens shelter catering to families with three other individuals, but he had not been staying there since May 15. During subsequent weeks, he is suspected of participating in multiple grab-and-run moped robberies across all five boroughs.

On Wednesday, Mata was arraigned from a Queens hospital on charges that include two counts of attempted murder, stemming from the shooting incident that resulted in injuries to two police officers.

Additionally, Mata is being investigated by authorities in Nassau County for a May 22 robbery in Hempstead, where a victim was shot in the arm while resisting her attackers. Sources indicated that Mata confessed to his involvement in this crime during a police interview.

According to law enforcement sources, police traced the victim’s stolen AirPods to the shelter where Mata had previously been residing with two suspected accomplices. Investigators believe these individuals may have fled to Texas following the incidents.

The case highlights ongoing challenges for law enforcement in combating gang-related crimes involving illegal immigrants and stolen vehicles in urban robbery sprees.

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