Feds bust TikToker who encouraged fellow illegals to squat in American homes

Leonel Moreno, a citizen of Venezuela, gained notoriety encouraging "fellow Venezuelans" to illegally come to the United States and live as squatters.

Leonel Moreno/TikTok

The illegal immigrant who attracted a massive following on TikTok offering his comrades tips on how to take over people’s homes has been arrested by the feds.

Leonel Moreno, a citizen of Venezuela, gained notoriety encouraging “fellow Venezuelans” to illegally come to the United States and live as squatters.

“If a house is not inhabited, we can seize it,” he told his 507,000 TikTok followers in a recent video that has drawn more than 3.9 million views. He went on to claim that he has “African friends” who have “already taken about seven homes.”

In a statement on Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Mr. Moreno was caught by the agency’s enforcement and removal operations team in Gahanna, a city in suburban Columbus, Ohio.

“Leonel Moreno is an unlawfully present citizen of Venezuela, who illegally entered the country April 23, 2022,” the statement read. “Moreno was placed into the ATD [Alternatives to Detention] program by Border Patrol and was told to report to Enforcement and Removal Operations office within 60 days of arriving at his destination.”

“Moreno did not report as required,” ICE noted. “On March 29, 2024, Moreno was arrested in Gahanna, Ohio by officers with ERO Detroit’s Columbus office and is currently detained pending further immigration proceedings.”

TikToker triggers outrage

In one of his videos, Mr. Moreno claimed he studied to be an engineer at Venezuela’s Fermin Toro University, and that he traveled through 12 countries to get to the United States.

He also alleged that he had tried to seek asylum with his wife in Canada last year but eventually came to the United States, where his family gets more government handouts.

“They didn’t give us the hotel they promised,” he said in a video posted to his Instagram account last year, speaking of how he was treated in Canada. “They gave us a month and then kicked us out, and didn’t give us the papers they promised. They didn’t give us a job and didn’t give us asylum.”

In other social media posts, Mr. Moreno bragged about living for free and buying supplies for his 1-year-old daughter with food stamps while showing off wads of cash. His family, he claimed, receives $350 a week from the government.

“I don’t like to work,” he told his followers. “Boys, in the U.S. there are a million tricks, a million things to do.”

In a YouTube video from his wife’s hospital room after she gave birth, he told his viewers that they paid nothing for the medical service, and thanked “Papa Biden” for footing the bill.

Mr. Moreno’s social media activities garnered praise from sympathizers of illegal immigrants and squatters, but also sparked outrage from those who support protecting the national border and property owners.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis directly mentioned Mr. Moreno’s video this week at a signing ceremony of a law cracking down on those who would try to squat in people’s homes. The law, among other things, makes it easier for homeowners to request police assistance in removing squatters from their property.

“We even have illegal aliens taking to social media, instructing other foreigners how to come into this country and commandeer property,” the Republican governor said. “Well, today in the state of Florida, we say very simply what passes muster in New York and California is not passing muster here. You are not going to be able to commandeer somebody’s private property and expect to get away with it.”

Every state has different laws around unauthorized tenants. According to the American Apartment Owners Association, those laws usually offer trespassers the legal right to live in a place they have lived in for an extended amount of time, in the event that the lawful owner does not evict or take action against the squatter.

In New York, for example, a squatter can be awarded “adverse possession” under state law if they have been living in a property for 10 years or more. In New York City, meanwhile, people who are able to remain in a home for just 30 days can claim squatter’s rights.


Bill Pan | The Epoch Times

Bill Pan is a reporter for The Epoch Times.