Erick Alberto Parra Mendoza, alias "Yeico Masacre" (sometimes spelled Yeiko), is a military deserter who has gone from a low-level gun-for-hire to the leader of one of the most violent and dangerous extortion gangs in the state of Zulia and one of Venezuela's most wanted criminals.
Masacre has proven to be chaotic and impulsive, with a penchant for flashy violence. At the same time, he has shown an instinct for seizing opportunities and a knack for self-preservation. His modus operandi regularly sees members of his gang arrested and killed, while Masacre manages the group's extortion, kidnapping, and assassination operations from abroad.
Parra Mendoza was born in 1991 in Santa Rita, Zulia. He joined Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard (Guardia National Bolivariana – GNB) but had deserted by 2014, according to court documents. He then took on the alias Yeico Masacre and became involved in Zulia's extortion rackets.
He began working with the Meleán, one of the state's oldest mafias, allegedly as a gunman under the command of the group's then-leader, Tirso Antonio Meleán, alias "Tirsito," according to media reports.
At the same time, Masacre started making headlines for high-profile murder, kidnapping, and extortion cases, including for his alleged role in the kidnapping for ransom of a famous baseball player's mother in 2018.
In October of that year, Yeico Masacre claimed responsibility for the murder of police commissioner Benito Cobis through a since-deleted social media account. The murder, for which six police officials were charged, caused a huge scandal in Zulia. Though it remains unclear whether Yeico Masacre was really involved or simply took credit to boost his criminal credentials, the lawyers and family members of the accused continue to point to his confession as proof of their innocence.
Sometime between 2018 and 2020, Masacre expanded his operations into Colombia, according to media reports and Colombian intelligence reports seen by InSight Crime. At the same time, he fell out with the Meleán, sparking a violent gang conflict that was largely waged in Colombian territory.
Following the death of leader Bernardino Meleán Frontado, alias "Willy Meleán," at the hands of Colombian authorities, the Meleán began to break apart. At the same time, Masacre upped the level of organization and cohesion within his group. Members began referring to themselves as the Yeico Masacre Armed Group (Grupo Armado Yeico Masacre – GAYM) and sporting weapons, and bulletproof vests bearing GAYM insignia.
Masacre also turned his attention back to Zulia. His gang has now become notorious for carrying out violent extortion schemes using grenade attacks and has held at least two different ranchers hostage, demanding ransoms in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Yeico Masacre comes from the municipality of Santa Rita, located on the eastern coast of Lake Maracaibo. He seems to have built his criminal operations from there, spreading along the lake's eastern shore to Cabimas, Miranda, and Simón Bolívar municipalities and across the lake to the Zulian capital of Maracaibo and the nearby town of San Francisco.
Though Yeico Masacre's operations are concentrated in Zulia, active and former security officials and Venezuelan intelligence reports seen by InSight Crime indicate that the gangster resides abroad, either in Ecuador, or, more likely, in Colombia.
A 2020 Colombian intelligence report seen by InSight Crime and news coverage from that time alleged that Masacre was active in at least four Colombian cities: Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Ibagué, and Bogotá. More recent interviews with Bogotá security officials suggest that Masacre has no permanent presence in Colombia's capital, and there is no evidence to suggest that his group currently maintains a significant presence in Barranquilla, Santa Marta, or Ibagué.
There is evidence, however, that he may have at least sporadic operations in the Colombian border town of Maicao, where armed men claiming to act on behalf of Yeico Masacre, killed three local indigenous men in March 2022.
Yeico Masacre and his gang make their money from violent crimes, including gun-for-hire services, extortion, and kidnapping.
Since 2018, Yeico has been linked to multiple high-profile murders, with a notable escalation after 2021, when he allegedly ordered the murder of Chavista councilor Sergio Prieto, threatened a mayoral candidate in his home municipality of Santa Rita, and carried out a weapons raid against a military command point, killing a GNB sergeant.
Yeico Masacre's gang has also emerged as one of Zulia's powerful extortion groups. Masacre has cultivated a reputation for using violence, especially grenade attacks, to intimidate extortion victims. He has also posted gruesome videos on social media in order to threaten and intimidate potential victims and rivals.
Yeico Masacre's gang is also responsible for several high-profile kidnappings in Zulia, most of which are linked to his extortion operations and are kidnappings for ransom, according to business owners and a journalist from the area, who spoke to InSight Crime on condition of anonymity.
A 2020 Colombian intelligence report seen by InSight Crime, claims that Yeico Masacre is involved in drug trafficking operations across the Venezuela-Colombian border. Local police also claimed the March 2022 massacre in Maicao, allegedly carried out by members of Yeico Masacre's gang, was a drug-related crime.
However, neither the intelligence report nor coverage of the Maicao massacre have revealed any details about how the gangster's drug trafficking operations are meant to function, and there is no evidence to suggest Masacre is involved with any large-scale trafficking networks.
Allies and Enemies
By all accounts, Yeico Masacre got his start as a hitman for the Meleán, but the relationship soured. One of many theories holds that Masacre tried and failed to take control of the gang in the wake of Tirsito's arrest. When Tirsito's brother, Bernadino Meleán, alias "Willy," got control of the gang instead, Masacre split from the mafia, starting a bloody conflict in Colombia.
In 2020, Willy allegedly murdered Masacre's father, brother, and friend in the Colombian city of Ibagué. Masacre's gang responded by posting a video threatening Willy and anyone associated with him. During this time, Colombian authorities attributed much of the violence on the country's Caribbean coast to the fighting between Yeico Masacre and the Meleán.
But it seems that the Meleán was not the only gang that Masacre was fighting at the time. Colombian news media and intelligence reports seen by InSight Crime show that Masacre was also in a violent feud with the gang led by Adrián Rodríguez , alias "Adriancito."
In June 2020, Yeico Masacre's men allegedly gunned down Adriancito's associate, alias Sleiter and his mother, in the Colombian city of Bogotá. According to an intelligence report seen by InSight Crime, Masacre had been advertising a $1,000 reward for anyone who killed Sleiter or his family for at least six months before the murder. In the wake of the murder, Masacre posted more threats on his social media – one offering $5,000 to anyone that killed Adriancito and another threatening anyone associated with Sleiter, according to Colombian news media
Yeico Masacre has thrived in Zulia's chaotic and violent criminal landscape, outgrowing his employer turned rival, the Meleán, to become a serious security threat on both sides of the Venezuela-Colombian border. Today, in Zulia, news media, as well as active security officials and victims of extortion, consistently name Masacre's gang as one of the state's most dangerous criminal structures.
But like many other contemporary Zulian gangs, Yeico Masacre's success depends partly on his ability to live and run his criminal operations in Venezuela from abroad, where the country's security forces cannot touch him. He has benefited from Venezuela's international isolation, which has been characterized by a marked lack of security cooperation and could be left more vulnerable as Venezuela re-enters the international fold and Colombian and Venezuelan security forces begin coordinating once more.