By Brecken Branstrator
Santa Ana, Calif.—The ringleader of a robbery crew that targeted traveling jewelry salespeople and caused at least $835,00 in losses has been handed his prison sentence.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, Federico Santiago Quiroz Lucca, 52, was sentenced to 45 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $835,000 in restitution for his role in the jewelry heists.

He was sentenced Aug. 28 via video conference after pleading guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.

Between October 2017 and April 2019, authorities say Lucca and his co-conspirators surveilled and robbed, or planned to rob, multiple jewelry salespeople and bank customers in the Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay and Denver areas.

Lucca led and organized the crew’s activities, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, enlisting help from several Colombian nationals who traveled to L.A. to participate in the planning and robberies.

His apartment also served as a base of operations and meeting place where some co-conspirators lived and equipment and stolen goods were stored.

The crew’s heists followed a pattern, starting with a member known as a “scout” identifying a victim likely to be carrying jewelry or cash.

The victims typically were jewelers conducting business at retail stores or malls in Orange County, the Jewelry District in downtown L.A., or at trade shows.

The scout would then follow the victim and wait for an opportunity when they could rob them.

The group followed victims to gas stations and hotels and then employed a ruse—such as puncturing the salesperson’s car tires and then posing as a Good Samaritan offering to help them—or simply used force to rob them.

Lucca and four co-conspirators were arrested in early to mid-April 2019 and indicted later that month.

Three of the co-conspirators—Jose Manuel Lopez Molina, 48; Roberto Alonso Castellanos, 51; and Jose Oscar Cupitre Nuñez, 48—pleaded guilty to the same charge as Lucca: conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.

Molina was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, which was time served, so he has been released, the U.S. Attorney’s Office told National Jeweler, while Castellanos was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $413,000 in restitution.

Nuñez’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 26.

A fifth defendant, Roberto Melendez Falcon, 54, has pleaded not guilty. His trial is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2021 in Santa Ana, California.

TAGS:   Crime
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