The Trinitarios is an Dominican American criminal organization founded by Dominicans in New York City, New York in 1993.

Founded1993; 29 years ago (1993)[1]
FoundersLeonides Sierra and Julio Marine[1]
Founding locationRikers Island, New York City, New York, United States[1]
Years active1993–present
TerritoryUnited States, Spain and Dominican Republic[1]
EthnicityDominican American)[2]
Membership (est.)Over 3,000 in the Eastern area of the United States[1]
ActivitiesDrug trafficking, assault, murder, robbery, extortion
Dominicans Don't Play[2]
Latin Kings[1]
United Blood Nation[1]


The Trinitarios were established in 1993 on Rikers Island, the New York City jail,[3][4] by two Dominicans facing separate murder charges—Leonides "Junito" Sierra and Julio "Caballo" Marine. While on the West coast the Mexican Mafia and their alliances Barrio 18, la Mara Salvatrucha and the rest of other Sureños controls the prisons and los barrios of California and Southwestern regions alongside with the Aryan Brotherhood and other list of peckerwood gangs who protect themselves from the African American gangs. The Trinitarios on the East Coast was built in Rikers Island prison to protect mainly Dominicans and other Hispanic nationalities from African American gangs or other American gangs. This Dominican gang is considered to be the very first Latino gang that originated in New York City and then later it spread out to the whole northeastern region of United States. The group was named for three revolutionaries of the Dominican War of Independence; its slogan is Dios, patria y libertad (the official motto of the Dominican Republic, "God, homeland and liberty").[1][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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[3][1]

Membership, organization, and criminal activitiesEdit

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,[7] but later remained stabilized.[1] The gang operates mainly in New York and New Jersey,[8] with activities in Upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Albany and Long Island.[3] It also has a presence elsewhere in the Eastern Seaboard of the United States,[1] including Rhode Island,[1][8] Georgia,[8] Massachusetts,[8] Pennsylvania,[8] and Florida,[1] as well as Tennessee.[1] In Spain, membership of the Trinitarios is predominantly Dominican, but also Bolivian, Colombian and Spanish.[9] Such Latin American gangs spread to Spain as a result of mass deportations from the United States of Latin American immigrants with criminal records.[10]

The Trinitarios use the numbers “41-6-12” as a Trinitarios code, gang members use to identify themselves, and the letters “D, P, L” for their motto, are used similarly in tattoos. The “3ni” is shorthand for the gang's name.[11]

The Trinitarios are known for their high degree of organization, including a hierarchical structure,[12][13] as well as for their use of brutal violence.[12][13] 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,[3] but members also carry baseball bats, guns, and knives.[12] Criminal activities perpetrated by Trinitarios include drug dealing,[3][12] in heroin and cocaine, as well as assaults and home invasions.[12] The Trinitarios have infiltrated schools as a recruiting ground.[12][7]

Notable crimes committed by TrinitariosEdit

Trinitarios member Pedro Luis Colon was sentenced to 26-to-60 years' imprisonment for attempted homicide after he shot two people with a shotgun outside a fast food restaurant in Allentown, Pennsylvania in August 2007. In November 2011, he was sentenced to another 10-to-20 years' to run concurrently for three unrelated attempted homicides which took place in the same city on January 31, 2008. In that incident, Colon had shot a member of the rival Goonies, a local Bloods set, before firing at two fellow Trinitarios members.[14]

Three Trinitarios members, including the Primera (leader) of the gang's Rhode Island chapter, were indicted by a federal grand jury on firearms and drug charges on August 25, 2010, after being captured on an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) videotape attending an organizational meeting in Providence. A fourth member was charged on state firearm charges.[15]

Seven Barcelona-based members were convicted of using a kitchen knife to carve a fifty centimeter "X" into the back of a gang member deemed a traitor for associating with MS-13 on March 21, 2012.[16] During the trial, the Trinitarios were designated a criminal organization which allowed heavier sentences to be imposed upon the perpetrators and the gang's leaders.[17] On the same day as the ruling – May 11, 2014 – a brawl occurred in Madrid involving Trinitarios and Ñetas, leading to the arrests of twenty-six gang members.[18]

In August 2018 several Trinitarios gang members were arrested for shooting at a house in Lawrence, Massachusetts.[19] A Trinitarios gang member was arrested in January 2019 for the shooting of a 16-year-old girl in Lawrence.[20]

In June 2018, a Trinitario gang member from Haverhill, Massachusetts was arrested for the murder of a rival Gangster Disciples member.[21] 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."[21]

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.[22]

Death of Lesandro Guzman-FelizEdit

On June 20, 2018, in the Bronx, 15-year-old Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz left his apartment to loan a friend five dollars.[23] Guzman-Feliz was a member of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Explorers program, a group for youths interested in law enforcement careers,[24] and aspired to become a detective.[25] Five Trinitarios, who were "hunting their enemies," mistakenly believed that the teenager was a young man that had disrespected one of the gang member nieces. The boy whom they were actually after bore a striking resemblance to Junior, therefore he was believed to be the boy they were after. After the murder a leader of the gang went on social media and apologized to Juniors family, and said they had locked the killers out of their gang. 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.[13] The murder was captured by security cameras and cell phone-video.[13]

The murder outraged the public,[13][26] and video footage of the murder went viral.[3] In June 2019, five Trinitarios were convicted of first-degree murder and other charges, including conspiracy and gang assault, in the murder.[13] Two gang members who participated in the attack testified for the prosecution, revealing the inner workings of the gang.[13] After the verdict was rendered, one of the killers shouted, "Popote, hasta la muerte!" ("Trinitarios until death").[13] In July 2022, two leaders of a ‘set’ or faction were convicted of murder for ordering the killing.[27] Several others are awaiting trial in connection with the murder.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Jan Ransom and Al Baker (18 July 2018). "Inside the Trinitarios: How a family Feud Led to the Death of a Teenager". New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  2. ^ a b Gangs of New York Brad Hamilton, New York Post (October 28, 2007)
  3. ^ 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).
  4. ^ "National Gang Threat Assessment" (PDF). National Gang Intelligence Center. 2009. p. 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-07.
  5. ^ "Trinitarios gang members arrested in New York". (Press release). Retrieved 2018-06-26.
  6. ^ 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).
  7. ^ a b Messing, Philip (January 14, 2008). "Schools' Gang Scourge". New York Post.
  8. ^ a b c d e "2011 National Gang Threat Assessment". National Gang Intelligence Center. 2011.
  9. ^ Spain cracks down on deadly Latin crime gangs The Local (25 March 2014)
  10. ^ SPAIN: Latin Kings Gang a “Cultural Association” in Barcelona Tito Drago, Inter Press Service (21 September 2006)
  11. ^ "The Trinitarios Gang Profile & Structure - InfoTracer". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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).
  14. ^ Allentown gang member gets 10 to 20 years for attempted homicide, but it will be 'eaten up' by another sentence Colin McEvoy, The Express-Times (November 28, 2011)
  15. ^ Gang Leader, Three Others in Secret FBI Videotape of Trinitarios Gang Meeting Charged with Firearms, Drug Offenses (August 26, 2010)
  16. ^ Una cruz para ‘marcar’ al traidor Jesús García, El País (22 March 2013)
  17. ^ Could Spain Designation Push LatAm Gangs Towards Org Crime? Charles Parkinson, InSight Crime (14 May 2014)
  18. ^ Dos heridos graves y 26 detenidos en una reyerta entre Ñetas y Trinitarios F. Javier Barroso, El País (12 May 2014)
  19. ^ "Alleged gang member charged with shooting at Lawrence home". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  20. ^ "Gang member held without bail in Lawrence shooting". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Police: Shooting part of 'gang war' in city". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  22. ^ "Feds recover 79 guns, charge over 30 suspects in Lawrence drug and firearm bust". November 15, 2019.
  23. ^ "'His Dream Was To Be A Police Officer:' Friends, Family Mourn Teen Fatally Stabbed In Apparent Case Of Mistaken Identity In The Bronx". Newyork.cbsloc/ 23 June 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  24. ^ "Farewell to 'Junior': Funeral for slain Bronx teen". FOX 5 NY. June 27, 2018. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  25. ^ "Friends, family honor the life of Lesandro Guzman-Feliz". News 12. June 27, 2018. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  26. ^ "2 more arrests in Bronx attack that killed innocent teen 'Junior'". WABC. 3 July 2018.
  27. ^ "Two gang leaders convicted in murder of 'Junior' Guzman-Feliz". 29 July 2022.