Five Violent Jewelry Robbers Have Been Arrested
The five defendants are alleged to have robbed and murdered a traveling jewelry salesman near DFW Airport
DALLAS — Five individuals who were wanted by the FBI, the DFW International Airport Department of Public Safety, the Arlington Texas Police Department, and the Garland Texas Police Department for their suspected involvement in a series of violent robberies against traveling jewelry salesmen, one of which resulted in the death of the victim, have been arrested, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas, Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Eric K. Jackson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Johnnattan Ramirez, 35, Pedro Louis Alvarez, 32, Robert Riveros, 25, Eslevy Vargas-Avila, 27, and Catherine Contreras-Beltran, 28, were charged in a federal superseding indictment in October 2016. Each defendant is charged with one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, two counts of interference with commerce by robbery, and two counts of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to, and possessing and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of, a crime of violence. Ramirez, Alvarez and Riveros are also charged with one additional count of interference with commerce by robbery and one additional count of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to, and possessing and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of, a crime of violence.
Investigative efforts by the FBI Dallas Violent Crimes Task Force and the DFW International Airport Department of Public Safety identified Ramirez, Alvarez, Riveros, Vargas-Avila and Contreras-Beltran as suspects in these violent robberies. Further investigative efforts led to the location and arrest of all five defendants. Alvarez was arrested in New York City by the FBI and the DFW International Airport Department of Public Safety on June 27, 2016. Contreras-Beltran, Vargas-Avila, Ramirez, and Riveros were all arrested in Colombia by the Colombian National Police, DIJIN Vetted Team, on December 24, 2016, February 13, 2017, February 19, 2017, and July 19, 2017, respectively. The United States government intends to request extradition of Contreras-Beltran, Vargas-Avila, Ramirez, and Riveros, all of whom are Colombian citizens.
“I commend the extraordinary efforts of the FBI and our local and international law enforcement partners in apprehending these brazenly violent fugitives,” said U.S. Attorney Parker. “This extremely dangerous group of robbers is part of a larger organized South American Theft Group that has targeted members of the jewelry industry across this nation for a number of years. Our community is safer as a result of getting these people off our streets.”
“Thanks to the efforts of our prosecutors, the FBI and our local and international partners, all five members of this alleged armed robbery organization have been apprehended,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “We thank our Colombian law enforcement partners for their outstanding work. The U.S. Department of Justice is committed to working vigorously with our partners at home and abroad to apprehend and bring this and other armed robbery groups to justice.”
“This case is a testament to the exemplary work of the FBI’s Violent Crime Task Force,” said Eric K. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Dallas Division. “The agents on our task force worked hand in hand with state, local, and international partners to relentlessly investigate these crimes and, ultimately, identify, locate, and apprehend these violent fugitives.”
The indictment alleges, on April 27, 2016, Ramirez, Alvarez, and Riveros observed K.D., an individual who they believed to be a traveling diamond and jewelry salesman, at a store in Garland, Texas. Ramirez and Riveros approached K.D. as he was leaving the store, while Alvarez continued surveillance. Riveros then took a rolling case, a calendar catalog, calendar invoice/order forms, a Nikon digital camera, and a State of California sales permit from K.D. against his will by threatened force, violence, and fear of immediate injury to his person, that is, by brandishing a firearm.
The indictment further alleges, on June 2, 2016, Ramirez, Alvarez, Riveros, Vargas-Avila, and Contreras-Beltran, observed C.K., an individual who they believed to be a traveling diamond and jewelry salesman, and followed him to a gas station located on East Pioneer Parkway in Arlington, Texas. Ramirez, Riveros, and Vargas-Avila approached C.K. as he was putting gas in his rental vehicle, while Alvarez and Contreras-Beltran continued surveillance. Ramirez, who had a firearm and was wearing a mask to conceal his identity, approached C.K. and searched him at gunpoint for hidden diamonds and jewelry on his person, while Vargas-Avila entered C.K.’s vehicle and took a bag containing, among other items, a diamond scale and diamond gauge.
The indictment also alleges, on June 9, 2016, Ramirez, Alvarez, Riveros, Vargas-Avila, and Contreras-Beltran, observed M.S., an individual who they believed to be a traveling diamond and jewelry salesman, at a store in Richardson, Texas. Ramirez, Alvarez, Riveros, and Vargas-Avila followed M.S. to a DFW International Airport gas station in Euless, Texas, and observed M.S. enter the gas station’s convenience store. Riveros broke a window on M.S.’s rental vehicle with a handgun, took a case containing jewelry and placed it inside the vehicle being driven by Ramirez. M.S. ran from the store and entered Ramirez’s vehicle through the window and attempted to retrieve his case. Ramirez then drove his vehicle in a manner intended to dislodge M.S. from the vehicle, striking other vehicles in the process, before departing the area with M.S. partially inside the vehicle. Ramirez, Alvarez, Riveros, and Vargas-Avila drove to an apartment complex in Irving, Texas, where M.S. was removed from the vehicle and beaten, which contributed to the death of M.S.
An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury, and a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. However, if convicted, the conspiracy count and the interference with commerce by robbery count both carry a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to, and possessing and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of, a crime of violence counts each carry a maximum statutory penalty of life in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
The FBI Dallas Violent Crimes Task Force, the DFW International Airport Department of Public Safety, Arlington Texas Police Department, and the Garland Texas Police Department investigated the case, with assistance from the Colombian National Police, DIJIN Vetted Team. Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Robinson is prosecuting, with assistance from Joseph Wheatley, Trial Attorney, Organized Crime and Gang Section.
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