Venezuelan ‘Migrant Influencer’ Claims ‘Persecution’ from Jail After Arrest

Leonel Moreno
Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Leonel Moreno, the Venezuelan “migrant influencer” known for instructing fellow migrants on how to take advantage of American “squatter’s rights,” is now complaining of “persecution” as he sits in jail.

Moreno, who had over 500,000 followers on TikTok before his account was removed, made headlines last month when he told other illegal immigrants to “seize” houses that appear to be uninhabited, Breitbart News reported. 

​​In a video that had nearly 800,000 views before it was taken down, Moreno said in Spanish: “I found out that there is a law that says if a house is not inhabited, we can seize it.”

Referring to highly controversial “squatter’s rights” laws that exist in varying forms around the U.S., the influencer said the rules allow for a “land invasion.”

“That will be my next business, invading abandoned houses,” he said.

Other videos on his social media promoted illegal immigration and relying on handouts from the government or just begging on the streets.

“I didn’t cross the Rio Grande to work like a slave,” Moreno said while waving a stack of $100 bills in an Instagram video viewed by the New York Post.

He went on to claim that he had grifted enough money to support himself, his wife, Veronica Torres, and their baby daughter.

The Venezuelan national also voiced support for Jesus Alejandro Rivas-Figueroa, the 15-year-old migrant who allegedly shot a woman in New York’s Times Square in February. 

“I invite you to find [his] mother and [for] all of us to unite to pay the fines [so] that the young Venezuelan feels that he’s not alone during difficult moments,” Moreno told his TikTok followers. “Remember that up there there’s a God who sees everything [down here].”

Moreno’s social media fame may have actually helped authorities to locate him after they lost track of him following his unlawful entry into the U.S.

“ICE had lost track of Moreno until his videos telling migrants how to live off the state started going viral. They now have him listed as possibly living in Columbus, Ohio,” the Daily Mail reported when he was arrested last month. 

ICE officials told the outlet that the 27-year-old migrant had been on the run since he crossed the border at Eagle Pass, Texas, in 2022. 

Just before his arrest, Moreno posted videos of himself crying and claiming he was being persecuted and threatened after having his social media accounts suspended.

In one clip he recorded while holding his baby, he said he needed protecting and claimed authorities are “chasing” him.

In a recent interview with the New York Post from jail, Moreno doubled down on the “persecution” accusations. 

“I came here to the United States because of persecution in my country … But they’re doing the same thing to me in the United States – persecuting me,” he said in Spanish from inside the Geauga County Jail in Chardon, Ohio.

“It’s all misinformation in the media about me. They’re defaming me. They’re misrepresenting me in the news … I am a good father, a good husband, a good son, a good person, humble, respectful to people who respect me,” he continued, before crying: “I miss my entire life – I miss my freedom!”

He also expressed fear that “they’re going to kill me.”

He didn’t seem to specify who “they” are.

“They’re coming for my life – anyone!” the jailed migrant claimed.

Moreno also tried to get money out of the interview, which the Post refused.

The outlet also noted that Moreno was initially allowed to remain in the country “on a Biden administration-approved parole scheme — but then failed to appear for required check-ins with immigration officers, according to ICE.”

Moreno could also face federal firearms charges after posting multiple videos of him handling weapons in a gun store to his 18,000 Instagram followers.

He is claiming that his First Amendment rights have been violated because social media is his “job.”

“If Leonel Moreno commits a crime or something then they would be right, but it’s because of my work, so this is unfair … Social media is my job,” he told the Post.

“If I want to say something now, I can’t say it … We’ve become an oppressive country instead of a free country where we can express whatever is in our hearts … The United States was created to be that, not to oppress.”

He continued on to claim that he was only playing a “character” in his controversial videos. 

“The person who is in my videos, my character, is not the same person as Leonel Moreno. I am a different person. We can’t confuse one with the other. We can’t confuse my character with my real life,” Moreno said during the televisit.

“I have a sarcastic, dark humor. That’s my job … Leonel Moreno is the opposite,” he continued.

He declined to answer if he agrees with the opinions he has shared online.


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