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FoundedEarly 1990s
Founding locationRikers Island, New York
TerritoryEastern United States; Dominican Republic; Spain[1]
Membership3,181 (2011 estimated members in New York City)[1]
ActivitiesDrug trafficking, weapons trafficking, assault, murder, kidnapping, robbery

The Trinitarios are a Dominican American street gang founded in New York City, New York.


The Trinitarios were established in the early 1990s on Rikers Island, the New York City jail,[2][3] by two Dominicans facing separate murder charges—Leonides "Junito" Sierra and Julio "Caballo" Marine. The group was named for three revolutionaries of the Dominican War of Independence its motto is Dios, patria, y libertad ("God, homeland and liberty").[1][2] The group later became a street gang.[3] Their colors are lime green, as well as red, blue, and white (the colors of the Dominican Republic flag).[1]

The group suffered a major blow in 2009, as the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York dismantled the group through a series of prosecutions.[1] In 2011, 50 members and associates of the Bronx Trinitarios Gang (BTG) were charged with federal racketeering, narcotics and firearms offenses. Forty-one defendants were charged with a racketeering conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in connection to alleged participation in a criminal enterprise that included narcotics trafficking, murder and attempted murder.[4]

In 2014, the Trinitarios' co-founder and former leader, Sierra, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the racketeering conspiracy, to run consecutively with a 22½ year to life sentence in New York that Sierra was already serving as a result of his 1989 murder conviction.[5] Some 140 other members, including Sierra's chief lieutenants, were also convicted and received lengthy prison sentences.[1]

Later, however, the group had a resurgence. Internal factions of the Trinitarios have battled with one another, beginning in 2011, when a leader of a Sunset Park, Brooklyn chapter of the Trinitarios attempted to expand to the Bronx without authorization.[1] The gang war that ensued intensified in 2018, with several shootings.[2][1]

Membership, organization, and criminal activities[edit]

In 2011, a New York City Police Department estimated that there were 3,181 Trinitarios in the city, about 5% of the total number of members of New York gangs.[1] Their numbers grew rapidly around 2007-2008,[6] but later remained stabilized.[1] The gang operates mainly in New York and New Jersey,[7] with activities in Upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Albany and Long Island.[2] It also has a presence elsewhere in the Eastern Seaboard of the United States,[1] including Rhode Island,[1][7] Georgia,[7] Massachusetts,[7] Pennsylvania,[7] and Florida,[1] as well as Tennessee.[1]

The Trinitarios are known for their high degree of organization, including a hierarchical structure,[8][9] as well as well as for their use of brutal violence.[8][9] Testimony given against Trinitarios in court indicated that "one needs a sponsor to join, and once in, new members receive a rule book, take an oath and swear to abide by the gang's constitution."[1] The gang's "weapon of choice" is the machete,[2] but members also carry baseball bats, guns, and knives.[8] Criminal activities perpetrated by Trinitarios include drug dealing,[2][8] in heroin and cocaine, as well as assaults and home invasions.[8] The Trinitarios have infiltrated schools as a recruiting ground.[8][6]

Notable crimes committed by Trinitarios[edit]

In August 2018 several Trinitarios gang members were arrested for shooting at a house in Lawrence, Massachusetts.[10] A Trinitarios gang member in Lawrence was arrested in January 2019 for the shooting of a 16-year-old girl in Lawrence. [11]

In June 2018, a Trinitario gang member from Haverhill, Massachusetts was arrested for the murder of a rival Gangsters Disciples gang member.[12] A Haverhill detective wrote that the arrests were in connection with an ongoing feud (a gang war) between the Trinitarios and their rivals, the Gangster Disciples, that had resulted in multiple shootings."[12]

In November 2019, in Massachusetts, 18 Trinitarios were among 32 arrested in "Operation Emerald Crush." The operation involved more than 70 federal, state and local officers who carried out the arrests of suspects alleged to have sold massive amounts of firearms and drugs including cocaine, fentanyl, heroin and crack cocaine with an estimated street value of $120,000. Authorities confiscated 79 firearms in the operation. Out of the 79 guns, which came in from out of state, 17 were stolen and at least two were used in shootings. In one case, undercover officers were able to buy 27 guns in one transaction.[13]

Death of Lesandro Guzman-Feliz[edit]

On June 20, 2018, in the Bronx, 15-year-old Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz left his apartment to loan a friend five dollars.[14] Guzman-Feliz was a member of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Explorers program, a group for youths interested in law enforcement careers,[15] and aspired to become a detective[16] Five Trinitarios, who were "hunting their enemies," mistakenly believed that the teenager was a member of Sunset, a Trinitarios splinter group. The gang members entered the bodega at Bathgate Avenue and East 183rd Street where Guzman-Feliz was seeking shelter, dragged him onto the sidewalk in front of the store, and beat him and stabbed him with machetes and large knives.[9] The murder was captured by security cameras and cell phone-video.[9]

The murder outraged the public,[9][17] and video footage of the murder went viral.[2] In June 2019, five Trinitarios were convicted of first-degree murder and other charges, including conspiracy and gang assault, in the murder.[9] Two gang members who participated in the attack testified for the prosecution, revealing the inner workings of the gang.[9] After the verdict was rendered, one of the killers shouted, "Popote, hasta la muerte!" ("Trinitarios until death").[9] Eight others are awaiting trial in connection with the murder.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Jan Ransom & Al Baker, Inside the Trinitarios: How a Gang Feud Led to the Death of a Teenager, New York Times (July 18, 2018).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Luis Ferré-Sadurní & Barbara Marcolini, How a 15-Year-Old Ended Up Stabbed to Death Outside a Bronx Bodega, New York Times (September 10, 2018).
  3. ^ a b "National Gang Threat Assessment" (PDF). National Gang Intelligence Center. 2009. p. 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-07.
  4. ^ "Trinitarios gang members arrested in New York". (Press release). Retrieved 2018-06-26.
  5. ^ National Leader of "Trinitarios" Gang Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 19 Years in Prison, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (July 25, 2014).
  6. ^ a b Messing, Philip (January 14, 2008). "Schools' Gang Scourge". New York Post.
  7. ^ a b c d e "2011 National Gang Threat Assessment". National Gang Intelligence Center. 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Drug Market Analysis, 2009, New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, National Drug Intelligence Center, U.S. Department of Justice, pp. 5-6, 11.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jan Ransom, 'Junior' Guzman Killing: 5 Convicted of Hacking Innocent Teenager to Death, New York Times (June 14, 2019).
  10. ^ "Alleged gang member charged with shooting at Lawrence home". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Gang member held without bail in Lawrence shooting". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Police: Shooting part of 'gang war' in city". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Feds recover 79 guns, charge over 30 suspects in Lawrence drug and firearm bust". November 15, 2019.
  14. ^ "'His Dream Was To Be A Police Officer:' Friends, Family Mourn Teen Fatally Stabbed In Apparent Case Of Mistaken Identity In The Bronx". 23 June 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  15. ^ "Farewell to 'Junior': Funeral for slain Bronx teen". FOX 5 NY. June 27, 2018. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  16. ^ "Friends, family honor the life of Lesandro Guzman-Feliz". News 12. June 27, 2018. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  17. ^ "2 more arrests in Bronx attack that killed innocent teen 'Junior'". WABC. 3 July 2018.