By Michelle Graff
Dallas--Five members of a South American gang have been arrested in a string of attacks on traveling jewelry salespeople that included the June 2016 armed robbery and murder of a traveling salesman near the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.

According to the indictment in the case, the attacks took place between April and June 2016, all in the Dallas metro area. The Dallas-area incidences were among a number of attacks that took place around this time, prompting Jewelers Security Alliance President John J. Kennedy to issue a warning about the spike in off-premises crimes.

In the first incident on April 27, three of the five suspects approached a traveling diamond jewelry salesman as he was leaving a store in Garland, Texas, and robbed him at gunpoint, according to the indictment.

The second incident outlined in the indictment happened on June 2. All five suspects allegedly followed a traveling diamond and jewelry salesman to a gas station in Arlington, Texas, where he was robbed at gunpoint.

According to the indictment, the third incident took place June 9 at a gas station near the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and was the robbery that ultimately resulted in the death of 42-year-old Muhammed Shaikh.

The five suspects allegedly had followed Shaikh from a store in Richardson, Texas, north of Dallas, to this gas station near the airport. When they saw him go into the gas station’s convenience store, one of the suspects broke a window on his rental vehicle with a handgun, grabbed a case of jewelry and put it in the getaway vehicle.

Shaikh saw what was happening, ran from the store and dove into the open window of the getaway car in an attempt to grab the case.

According to the indictment, the driver then started driving through the parking lot “in a manner intended to dislodge (Shaikh) from the vehicle,” striking several other cars before driving off with the salesman still partially inside the car.

The suspects allegedly drove to an apartment complex in Irving, Texas, where they removed Shaikh from the vehicle and beat him. He was later found unconscious and died at the hospital.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the five individuals arrested were Johnnattan Ramirez, 35; Pedro Louis Alvarez, 32; Robert Riveros, 25; Eslevy Vargas-Avila, 27; and Catherine Contreras-Beltran, 28.

U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas called the five an “extremely dangerous group of robbers” that are “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.”

All five face a total of five robbery and weapons charges each, while Ramirez, Alvarez and Riveros face additional charges for the April 27 armed robbery.

The robbery charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, while the maximum penalty for the firearms charges is life in prison.

The charges were filed against the five in a superseding indictment back in October, but it took law enforcement officials time to track them all down.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Alvarez was arrested in June in New York City while the other four suspects were taken into custody in their native Colombia. The arrests began in December 2016 and finished July 19 with the arrest of the last suspect, Riveros.

Riveros, along with Contreras-Beltran, Vargas-Avila and Ramirez, are awaiting extradition to the United States.

Also last week, the FBI in Atlanta took two individuals into custody who were wanted in the April 18 armed robbery of a jewelry store in Conyers, Georgia.

According to the FBI Atlanta Field Office, 29-year-old Cephos Leyon “Jamal” White, of Sandy Springs, Georgia, and 31-year-old Sandrika Denise Sears (aka Nubian Monae) of Decatur, were arrested last Wednesday by FBI agents and officers from the Conyers Police Department.

A federal criminal complaint alleges that back in April, the two entered the Kay Jewelers store on Dogwood Avenue in Conyers and robbed the store of more than $700,000 of merchandise at gunpoint.

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