Authorities have arrested seven people who were allegedly involved in a jewelry theft ring. The group is accused of absconding with more than $4.6 million in goods from traveling salesmen in New Jersey and throughout the eastern seaboard. The individuals who were apprehended were federally charged during their first official court appearance earlier this month.
Government officials said the group is associated with an international crime syndicate that is accused of committing 17 other robberies. The suspects are accused of attacking jewelry sales representatives while they were traveling between their homes, hotels and business locations.
The accused theft ring reportedly used high-tech surveillance to identify vulnerable merchants throughout Virginia, New Jersey, New York, California and Tennessee. The sales representatives were sometimes stalked for hundreds of miles throughout the nation. Officials say that the sophisticated methods demonstrate that the group thoroughly researched their targets.
According to accusations by law enforcement authorities, the theft ring is associated with Colombian theft rings which operate internationally, stealing jewelry and precious items from salespeople with high-stakes operations. Federal officials say they suspect the ring has been operating for more than two years.
After the thefts, the suspects allegedly sold the items to third parties who would either re-sell the jewelry or melt it down for other uses. Officials say that the theft ring did not target specific types of jewelry, but usually stole items with a variety of gold and gemstone features.
Each suspect faces as many as 20 years in prison if convicted.
Source: Mercury News, "7 arrested in multi-state jewelry-theft ring," Brock Vergakis, March 21, 2012