15 Rounded Up for Robbing Traveling Jewelry Salespeople

CrimeSep 07, 2018

15 Rounded Up for Robbing Traveling Jewelry Salespeople

The attacks happened between 2014 and 2016, totaling 11 incidences in five states.

New York—Law enforcement officials just arrested the last of the 15 Colombians wanted in 11 violent robberies of traveling jewelry salespeople perpetrated over a nearly two-year span.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday the FBI and the Miami Beach Police Department arrested the final suspect Sunday in Miami, ending the string of arrests that began in 2016 and involved the FBI, the Justice Department, local law enforcement agencies and the Colombian National Police.

While the Jewelers’ Security Alliance has issued a number of warnings about off-premises attacks in recent years—including this one from November 2016—this particular string of robberies happened between late 2014 and early 2016.

According to the Justice Department, members of the gang used fake IDs to rent cars and book hotel rooms and flights to do surveillance on their intended targets, starting in Oklahoma City in September 2014 and ending in January 2016 in Dallas.

They watched traveling diamond and jewelry salespeople as they went in and out of jewelry stores—surveilling them on foot or from vehicles—and followed them in order to identify potential victims.

When they were ready to strike, gang members allegedly blocked in their victims’ vehicles, often flattening the tires and smashing in the windows, and threatened the salespeople with BB guns, knives, blades and center punches (a tool with a sharp point used to mark the center of an object) to get them to turn over their diamonds and jewelry.

According to the Justice Department, the 15 suspects carried out, or attempted to carry out, robberies in five states: Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Indiana and Virginia. Salespeople traveling through Texas were targeted the most, with nearly half of the robberies taking place in either Dallas or Houston.

Members of the crew allegedly sold the diamonds and jewelry they stole to various fences—individuals who knowingly buy stolen goods in order to later offload them for a profit—and split the proceeds.

The suspects are a mix of women and men, all Colombian nationals and ranging in age from 25 to 45. A full list of their names, along with their many aliases and various charges, is available on

Three of the suspects were nabbed in Colombia by the Colombian National Police, DIJIN Vetted Team, between October 2017 and this past February. The remaining 12 defendants were caught in the United States.

The suspects face various robbery and RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations

Act) conspiracy charges, and nine of the 15 have pleaded guilty so far.

According to the Justice Department, those nine are:
—Omar Gonzalez, 38, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy on July 27, 2017 and was sentenced on Feb. 20 to 66 months in prison;
—Erika Guiterrez Machado (aka Angela Cuebas), 45, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit a robbery on Sept. 5, 2017 and was sentenced to 40 months in prison on Jan. 22;
—Tito Andres Vargas Urbina, 31, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy on Aug. 29, 2017;
—Jonathan David Malpica, 33, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy on Sept. 5, 2017;
—Catherine Salas, 34, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit a robbery on Oct. 31, 2017;
—Andres Felipe Henao, 32, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit a robbery on Jan. 9;
—Mohammed Natour, 32, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy on March 13;
—Roger Zamora (aka Jaime Alba Juarez), 40, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy on March 20; and
—Luis Garcia, 31, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit a robbery on March 27.

Urbina, Malpica, Salas, Henao, Natour, Zamora and Garcia are all awaiting sentencing.
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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