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Press Release

Six Chilean Nationals Charged in Connection with Residential Burglaries in Multiple States

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – Six Chilean nationals have been charged for conspiring to target homeowners across multiple states in residential burglaries, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Flavio Bladimir Astete Castillo, Dareyen Mauricio Cortes-Canete, Luis Esteban Castillo Vivar, Max Vidal Navarrete, Jordán Estefano Contreras Vilches, and Juan Jose Ramirez Nilo, all of Chile, are each charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to sell and receive stolen property that had crossed state lines and one count of receiving stolen property that had crossed state lines.

“Six Chilean nationals have been charged with conspiring to target homeowners in residential burglaries across multiple states from New York to Maryland. The Complaint alleges that  they conspired to receive and sell stolen pearl, gold and diamond jewelry, rare coins and other property that was stolen in those burglaries. Residential burglaries affect people in a very serious and personal way, and our office will continue to pursue criminals who are alleged to have violated the sanctity of our homes.”

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger

“Thieves are victimizing more and more homeowners in New Jersey and beyond, traveling up from South American nations,” FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “They hit multiple victims in one community, quickly move on to the next and then flee back to their native country. This isn't your traditional crime spree; it is an actual industry of organized criminals who invade and shatter people's private sanctuaries and steal valuable possessions. These theft groups may believe they can circumvent our laws, but the charges today and other similar outstanding investigations prove we are stopping these offenders and bringing them to justice.”

“These arrests of a group of foreign-born individuals that engaged in interstate crime demonstrates how critical the cooperation between various law enforcement agencies continues to be,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Enforcement and Removal Operations, Newark Field Office Director John Tsoukaris said. “ERO will continue to leverage our unique authorities in support of community safety.”

“The collaboration among law enforcement agencies was essential in apprehending these individuals who targeted homes across multiple states,” Clinton Township Police Department Chief Thomas A. DeRosa said. “This case exemplifies our commitment to working together and utilizing advanced technology, as well as investing in new technologies, to combat interstate crime and protect our communities. Our collective efforts ensured that these stolen valuables were recovered and those responsible were brought to justice.”

Five of the defendants appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge José R. Almonte in Newark federal court and were detained. Ramirez Nilo had his initial appearance on May 22, 2024, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Christensen in Los Angeles federal court and was detained.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

The defendants are part of a burglary ring that committed multiple residential burglaries in March and April 2024 in multiple states, including Maryland and New York. The defendants conspired to possess large amounts of jewelry, collectibles, and other valuable goods, among other items. On April 19, 2024, they moved a heavy security safe stolen from a residence, while attempting to conceal the stolen item from detection by covering security cameras.

Law enforcement officers searched a vehicle the defendants were using to transport the stolen goods and recovered multiple pieces of jewelry, collectible coins and cufflinks, and other valuable items, alongside tools commonly used to burglarize residences, such as gloves, balaclavas, and window punches.

The charge of conspiracy to sell or receive stolen property carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison; and the charge of receipt of stolen property carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison. Both charges also carry a maximum potential penalty of up to a $250,000 fine, or twice the amount of money involved in the offense, whichever is greater.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited the FBI Newark’s Transnational Organized Crime Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark; Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Enforcement and Removal Operations, under the direction of Field Office Director John Tsoukaris; the Clinton Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Thomas A. DeRosa; and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, under the direction of Superintendent of Police Edward T. Cetnar, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the FBI Los Angeles Major Theft Task Force and Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Amtrak Police Department, Baltimore County Police Burglary Unit, Jersey City Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department, New Jersey State Police, New York State Police, the Westchester County Police and the NJ Transit Police. 

Anyone who believes they may be a victim, or has information about the theft groups or burglaries, is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI, submit the information online at, or call a local field office.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Trevor A. Chenoweth of the General Crimes Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated May 23, 2024

Press Release Number: 24-191