In April, the NYPD arrested three Spanish nationals for allegedly vandalizing subway train cars with "European style graffiti" in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. The three taggers have now pleaded guilty, with one insisting he had no idea tagging was illegal: "In Spain, it is normal and not a serious crime."
When two subway cars were found vandalized in the storage area of the 168th Street subway station in Manhattan on April 11th, the MTA got in touch with the NYPD. Investigators "determined that the subway trains were vandalized with European style graffiti," the NYPD said in a statement. "A conferral with Interpol in Spain confirmed that the graffiti was of Spanish origin."
The NYC Transit Authority's Eagle Security Team—which was formed in 2007 to help combat graffiti and vandalism—gave the NYPD's Special Projects unit a vehicle license plate number. An MTA guard had seen three men wearing masks inside of a vehicle near the 148th Street station train yards that very day, and the car had been rented from Newark Airport.
Eventually, the car was tracked down to Brooklyn, near the Utica Avenue subway station. On April 15th officers followed three men into station's train storage area, where they allegedly painted several train cars with the tags ORUS, SEN/JABATO, and TATE/ASIA.
Ricardo Espinola-Martinez, 36; Ignacio Dominguez-Robles, 39; and Manuel Cobano-Pareja, 40 were charged with criminal mischief, making graffiti, possession of a graffiti instrument, and criminal trespass. The Post reported details from the arrest documents, which included Dominguez-Robles claiming, "In my country [it] is not illegal to do graffiti," while Cobano-Pareja insisted, "I am not a terrorist and I don’t know any. In Barcelona, [graffiti] is not as serious as it is in New York City."
Investigators subsequently determined that the three suspects' tags were also on more train cars in Queens and the Bronx.
According to the Post, the three men, who were staying in an Airbnb in the Bronx, have "cut plea deals in Manhattan, and the Bronx, copping to misdemeanor graffiti and mischief charges in exchange for time served and fines totaling $7,500" but "still [face] various graffiti, trespassing and criminal mischief charges" for the incidents in Brooklyn and Queens.
Those behind the SEN and ORUS tags have been in NYC before, making their mark on some trains in the Bronx in 2014. Here are the tags in Berlin:
Back in 2006, it was estimated that 70% of subway graffiti was made by Europeans. The MTA has gotten faster at taking tagged trains out of service, as most of the "bombings" are done in rail yards, but some occasionally slip through. Subway graffiti expert (and Gothamist co-founder) Jake Dobkin has previously noted, "Europeans do love to come to NYC and try to get up on a train. Most New York writers don't, because they know how quickly the trains will get buffed."