WASHINGTON – Seven alleged members of a jewelry theft ring were arrested yesterday on charges related to their alleged roles in a highly sophisticated and violent organization that has stolen more than $4.6 million worth of jewelry from traveling jewelry sales representatives throughout Virginia and at least six other states. Charges against the individuals were unsealed today after the defendants made initial court appearances in Newport News, Va.
The arrests and charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Daniel Kumor, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division.
“According to the charges unsealed today, members of this organized criminal group stole more than $4.6 million in jewelry from victims in Virginia and at least six other states,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The defendants allegedly operated their sophisticated scheme for more than two years, using intimidation and violence to carry it out. Organized criminal groups pose a serious threat to the safety and security of our communities, and we will continue to do everything in our power to bring them to justice.”
“This tight-knit group is accused of violently attacking traveling salesmen to rob them of more than $4.6 million in jewelry,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “This group did their homework. We allege they were dangerous, patient, extremely mobile and struck swiftly. We are grateful that the ATF and our law enforcement partners were just as patient, mobile and able to strike swiftly once we had identified those believed to be involved.”
“These arrests highlight the outstanding work that dedicated ATF agents and our law enforcement partners do to keep our streets safe,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Kumor. “This investigation required a lot of long hours and excellent coordination among investigators, prosecutors and agencies throughout the region, and epitomizes the fine work law enforcement does every day.”
According to court records, Alexander Cuadros-Garcia, aka “Alex,” “Brujo,” “Aleto” and “Manuel Gonzalez”, 37, of Richmond, Va., is accused of leading a team of individuals who specialized in conducting surveillance on jewelry stores to identify and then rob jewelry sales representatives and couriers. The ring is believed to have committed and attempted robberies since March 2010 in Prince William County, Henrico County, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, McLean, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and Roanoke in Virginia, as well as locations in New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee and California.
Court documents allege the ring has ties to South American theft groups, which are transnational criminal groups typically of Colombian nationality that work in teams to steal jewelry, gems and precious metals from individuals carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise at one time.
The alleged members of the Richmond-based ring regularly conducted lengthy surveillance on jewelry stores to identify vulnerable individuals and then follow their targets back to the individuals’ hotel or home. In most of the alleged robberies, several men would suddenly appear as the victims approached or entered their car, punch out the car’s windows, threaten the victims at knife-point and steal the victims’ merchandise. In addition, the thieves would puncture the victims’ car tires and steal their cell phone to reduce the chance of pursuit or apprehension.
After a successful robbery, members of the ring allegedly traveled to New York to sell the merchandise to businessmen, who acted as “fences” and coordinated re-selling the stolen property or melting it down for future use.
In addition to Cuadros-Garcia, those arrested yesterday include the following:
Leonardo Ortiz, 41, aka “Luis Angel Arana-Garcia,” of North Chesterfield, Va., who allegedly participated in most of the robberies, conducted surveillance, structured cash and made numerous trips to New York to meet with the “fences.”
Lucesita Argueta, 32, aka “Lucy,” of Richmond, who allegedly participated in several robberies, conducted surveillance and coordinating with the “fences.”
Francisco Javier Montesrein-Rodriguez, 32, aka “Lois K,” “Lex” and “Luis Rodriguez,” of Henrico, Va., who allegedly participated in several robberies and heavily assisted with the surveillance activities of the theft ring.
Raul Antonio Escobar-Martinez, 37, aka “Tony,” of Richmond, who allegedly assisted with surveillance of theft victims and potential victims.
Jose Alfredo Rivero-Garcia, 51, aka “Alfredo” and “Jose Ribero,” of Richmond, who allegedly participated in the surveillance of prospective robbery victims.
Juanita Diaz, 42, of Henrico, Va., the ex-wife of Cuadros-Garcia, who allegedly assisted in structuring proceeds from the sale of the stolen property, registered cars used by conspirators and provided other assistance to the theft ring.
Cuadros Garcia, Ortiz, Argueta, Montesrein-Rodriguez and Rivero were arrested yesterday in the Fredericksburg, Va.,- area, while Diaz was arrested in Richmond and Escobar-Martinez was arrested in Texas.
Diaz was charged in the criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The remaining defendants were charged with conspiracy to obstruct, delay and affect commerce by robbery and face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, if convicted.
The investigation of this case was led by the ATF’s Washington Field Division, with the assistance of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the police departments in Williamsburg, Virginia Beach, Henrico County, Chesterfield, Prince William County and Fairfax County in Virginia, along with the Virginia State Police; the Baltimore County, Md., Police Department; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; the New York City Police Department; and the police departments in Rutherford, N.J., and Gwinnett County, Ga.; and the Morris County, N.J. Prosecutor’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric M. Hurt, Managing Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Zlotnick and Trial Attorney Jerome Maiatico of the Organized Crime and Gang Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
Criminal complaints are only charges and not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.