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7 arrested for ties to alleged Virginia theft ring

Authorities said they have broken up a theft ring that is believed to have stolen millions of dollars in jewelry from traveling salespeople working in Northern Virginia and elsewhere.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said officials took into custody seven members of a ring based in Richmond, Virginia. While the seven live in the southern portion of Virginia, they are thought to have committed or attempted robberies in Fairfax, Henrico and Prince William counties in Northern Virginia. Additionally, authorities said they have linked them to crimes in California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The alleged robberies date back to March 2010. One of the first crimes allegedly committed by the group occurred in a hotel parking lot and involved a salesman, who had taken his merchandise to a Richmond jewelry store a day earlier and was robbed as he put his bags in the car. The salesman sustained several lacerations during the alleged robbery and needed 20 staples in his hand and another 10 in his head.

Prosecutors described the group as patient and mobile, able to move quickly when members detected a potential target. Participants in the theft ring did their research, too, reportedly keeping a watch on jewelry stores, looking for salespeople whom they then could track to houses or hotels.

Most of the alleged robberies were carried out in a similar fashion. As the people carried the jewelry near their car, the purported thieves would allegedly threaten them at knifepoint, puncture their car tires and steal their cell phones. Once obtaining the goods, the alleged thieves then would travel to New York, where the merchandise would be resold or melted down for future sale.

Documents filed in court accuse the group of having ties to criminal groups in South America. But it's important that the suspects are treated fairly and not discriminated against because of their Latino heritage.

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Seven arrested in $4.6 million jewelry theft ring based in Richmond," Staff, March 21, 2012

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