The Trinitarios gang was formed during the 1980s at Rikers prison by Leonides Sierra and Julia Marine as a way to protect Dominicans from other Latino gangs in New York state prisons. The name is a dedication to three deceased leaders of the Dominican Independence movement. The Trinitarios is also known as 3ni. This gang spreads quickly throughout the Northeast and East Coast.
They are an extremely violent gang that recruits both inside prisons and high schools. Their brutal slayings of rival Trinitarios gang members on the street have become widely known, and one was even included in a rap song by Cardi B – as an appeal for justice for their victim, who was mistakenly identified. Their weapon of choice is a machete, whether for gruesome public relations effect or to evade shot detection devices used by police that makes catching bad guys easier.
In 1980 there were fewer than 200,000 Dominicans in the U.S., but that figure has ballooned to nearly 1 million in 2012. About 75 percent of those immigrants settled in the New York-New Jersey area due to family connections, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 38 percent have a high school diploma, and around 80 percent are between the ages of 18 and 60.
The Trinitarios gang has members in New York and New Jersey, Atlanta, Miami, and even Spain.
Women are involved in the 3ni, known as the Bad Barbies or One Seven Hoes factions. These women may be as violent as the men but often act as decoys, or prostitutes, and are not equal members of the gang. They have been known to hide weapons and drugs in baby strollers, to act as sex slaves for Trinitarios members, to provide safe houses for gang members, and to shuttle drugs into prisons.
The Trinitarios motto is “God, Homeland, Freedom” (translated from their home country’s motto “Dios, Patria, y Libertad”). The gang colors are the Dominican Republic’s flag: blue, red, and white, with bright green. Green signifies money as well as earth, but the gang color is blue, worn in a bandana.
This gang uses 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.
The 3ni rivals include Bloods, Crips, and Dominicans Don’t Play gangs.
The Trinitarios make their money by smuggling cocaine from the Dominican Republic, robberies, home invasions, prostitution, and other money-making schemes.
A former law enforcement officer from New York compares the Trinitarios to the notorious MS-13 gang, also known for their brutality and bloodshed. He suggests that the solution to gang takeover of neighborhoods is to alert police when Trinitarios gang members congregate in particular places.
In 2011, more than three dozen members of the Bronx “BTG” or arm of the gang, were arrested and charged with federal offenses for drug trafficking and conspiracy to murder. Unfortunately, time has shown that sending gang members to maximum security prisons does not stop their influence over street crime and may even enhance it.
The Trinitarios made strong threats to a rapper sporting colorful hair who had multiple tattoos, and because of the danger, he was allowed special treatment when jailed briefly for an outstanding warrant.
The man was taunted during booking at Rikers Island jail in New York, threatened by nearby Trinitarios that he would be cut. The man, who allegedly raps about gangs in his home borough of Brooklyn, pleaded for safety and was granted time in a special medical unit before being released on bond, for fear that Trinitarios gang members would make good on their threats.
The Trinitarios brutally murdered a 15-year old boy in New York in 2018 in a case of mistaken identity. Lesandro Guzman-Feliz was dragged from a neighborhood store and hacked to death by 3ni for allegedly videotaping sex with the daughter of a gang member. Gang experts say that raping girlfriends or wives of rival gang members and videotaping it is a way gangs taunt one another. After Guzman-Feliz was murdered, Trinitarios acknowledged the mistaken identity; he was not the man in the video.