‘Wanted By 196 Countries’: Colombian Authorities Capture Top Leader Of Venezuelan Gang Linked To Laken Riley Murder

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Colombia’s national police captured one of the three leaders of the Venezuelan gang linked to the murder of American nursing student Laken Riley, a statement revealed Monday.

Larry Amaury Álvarez Núñez — alias “Larry Changa” — was captured in the rural area of ​​Circasia, a city in the west-central province of Quindío, according to a statement from Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s office.

Álvarez Núñez is a co-founder of the transnational gang “Tren de Aragua” or “Aragua Train” and part of its leading triumvirate. Petro’s statement identified the other two leaders are identified as ‘Niño Guerrero’ and ‘Johan Petrica’.

“This person was wanted by Venezuela and Chile, and had an arrest warrant issued by Interpol in 196 countries for serious crimes, including terrorism, financing of terrorism, arms and ammunition trafficking, aggravated extortion and kidnapping,” Petro’s statement said about Álvarez Núñez.

Álvarez Núñez entered Colombia illegally, according to the statement. He reportedly used his false documents to establish pizzerias, abattoirs and other businesses as front operations for Tren de Aragua’s expansion in Colombia.

Chilean authorities tracking Álvarez Núñez’s family helped with the capture. A drone exposed his hideout, leading to a surprise raid. Álvarez Núñez tried to flee but was arrested, Petro’s statement noted.

Extradition negotiations were afoot, according to the statement. (RELATED: Reporter Presses Mayorkas On Families Who Lost Loved One At The Hands Of Illegal Immigrants)

Tren de Aragua was established in Tocorón prison, Venezuela, sometime between 2007 and 2013, Petro said.

The gang — Venezuela’s most dreaded — operated from within the prison for years until Venezuelan security agents stormed and seized the facility late Sep. 2023, the BBC reported. The prison reportedly had a swimming pool, nightclub, baseball field and mini-zoo while the gang was headquartered there.

Niño Guerrero, whose real name is Héctor Guerrero Flores, had completed his 17-year prison stint late 2022 and left Tocorón before the raid, according to El País. His whereabouts reportedly remain unknown. The third gang boss, Johan Petrica, whose real name is Johan José Romero, was reportedly spotted in Brazil in 2022 but is believed to live in southern Venezuela, heading an illegal gold mining business for Tren de Aragua.

Jose Ibarra, 26, the illegal Venezuelan migrant accused of murdering University of Georgia student Riley, has ties to the gang, the New York Post reported. He pleaded not guilty to the crime May 31.

Ibarra’s 29-year-old brother, Diego, is also suspected of ties to the gang but not to Riley’s murder. He allegedly used a fake green card to get a job at the University of Georgia, which led to his arrest, according to the outlet.

Bernardo Raul Castro Mata, who allegedly shot at two New York Police City Department (NYPD) officers June 3, was also reportedly linked to the gang.

Riley, 22, was found dead Feb. 22 in a wooded area on the University of Georgia campus with visible injuries resulting from blunt-force trauma. In death, Riley became a rallying cry for the security of U.S. borders.