Professional South American burglary gang is filmed EMPTYING luxury California homes after carrying out similar raids across East Coast, Indiana and Texas before flying home
- ‘Crime tourists’ from South America are being blamed for at least two recent burglaries in an affluent San Francisco Bay area community
- Similar groups have struck in Indiana, Texas, New York, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina
- The gangs target wealthy neighborhoods in places with lax criminal justice laws to conduct their home burglaries, police say
- In the San Francisco suburb of Hillsborough, security cameras captured thieves making off with bags of stolen goods and an SUV last Friday night
- The group also stole a safe from a luxe home in the same neighborhood earlier this month
- Criminals apprehended by police for similar schemes have hailed primarily from Chile and Colombia
Gangs of South American ‘crime tourists’ are being blamed for at least two home burglaries in California this week – as well as similar raids across the country in recent months, including sprees in Indiana, Texas, New York, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
The criminals target wealthy neighborhoods in places with lax criminal justice laws to conduct their home burglaries, before returning home with the loot while out on bail, according to police.
The San Francisco suburb of Hillsborough is just the latest community plagued by similar schemes, with previous groups hailing from Chile, Colombia and elsewhere in South America.
Hillsborough Police said it suspected the ‘crime tourists’ were behind at least two brazen burglaries that took place recently in the affluent Bay Area community, where the average home price sits around $5.4 million, according to Zillow.
Security footage from the home captured the moment a thief walked up to one of the homes and appeared to notice the camera as he quickly backed away.
The footage, shared by police, cuts to a scene later in the night as a black car rolls up to the driveway and two thieves walk out of the house with bags full of stolen goods.
One of the thieves appears to have trouble closing the door behind him as a third crook comes to assist him.
The thieves load up the car and return to the house to make off with more – before returning to steal the homeowner’s SUV and make their getaway.
The suspects have not yet been apprehended.
A home camera captured the moment a group of thieves, who police believe are ‘crime tourists’ from South America, robbed a San Francisco Bay area home
The thieves made of with bags full of stolen property and an SUV from the luxe home
Cameras at the home caught close-ups of two masked suspects at the front door
The robbery was the latest to hit the affluent Hillsborough community, where homes average around $5.4 million, according to Zillow
Police in California, Texas, Indiana, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia and New York have all reported robberies they believe were conducted by the so-called ‘crime tourists’
Police said the suspects were likely behind another robbery earlier this month where four thieves allegedly stole a safe from a home near the Hillsborough Country Club. They said credit cards in the safe were used in Modesto and Los Angeles County.
Hillsborough resident Matt Gouley told KPIX 5 said the robberies have left the neighborhood afraid, with neighbors constantly worried that anyone they don’t recognize could be a robber.
‘Recently I was stopped by a woman thinking I was a burglar — thief — and asking me what I’m doing here,’ Gouley said, adding that suspicion only grows when if someone is driving a dark van.
Hillsborough Police said the stolen car was recovered and that the thieves getaway vehicle was identified as a 2018 or newer Honda Civic.
They added that were working with other agencies in Southern California to investigate the robbery and crackdown on what they’ve taken to calling South American Theft Groups, or SATGs.
One such group is believed to behind at least six burglaries in Atherton, along with several other robberies screeching from Northern California to San Diego.
‘Of the eight burglaries this month, we suspect six were committed by organized Chilean gang members operating out of the Los Angeles area,’ Atherton Police Chief Steven McCully told KPIX. ‘Chilean gang member burglaries have been a problem throughout San Mateo County and nationwide.’
Law enforcement experts say the foreign cells of professional burglars – mostly from Columbia and Chile – enter the country illegally or exploit a 2014 visa waiver program intended to spur tourism from dozens of trusted countries.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization allows citizens from 40 nations to be prescreened to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa, a process that lets travelers undergo less scrutiny to enter the country
After entering the country, they reportedly carry out strings of break-ins and other crimes, bringing home up to hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen goods, the FBI estimates.
FBI Special Agent Daniel Gimenez said members of a criminal tourist gang in Texas made between $20,000 to $100,000 per jobs.
Earlier this year, the FBI busted one of the groups in Virginia who exploited the state’s lax bail laws to steal more than $2 million in a string of burglaries targeting high-end homes of Asian and Middle Eastern families before skipping bail and fleeing back home.
The network of thieves were also connected to a series of burglaries at homes across the Carolinas, Georgia and Texas, as well as a $1.2 million jewelry heist in Southern California.
The FBI say the investigation began after a string of break-ins in homes in Fairfax County, near Washington DC. But they were unable to make any arrests.
The agency didn’t get its first real break in the case until two of the suspected criminals tied to the ring were discovered after their car broke down in a suburb in Atlanta, Georgia in 2019.
Upon pulling over, a sheriff’s deputy questioned the two men, who were Puerto Rican. The two told the officer that they were heading back from one of the men’s girlfriend’s houses.
However, twigs stuck in one of the men’s clothing made the officer suspicious of their story, putting the pair on the local police’s radar.
The men, who were not arrested at the time, were later caught in a break-in attempt in the area, and were handed over to federal investigators who eventually linked them to the suspected syndicate.
The break in the case soon led investigators to a number of other burglars who used underhanded tactics like using jammers to block key fobs to break into cars, or cutting security systems and letting the batteries drain on back ups before looting stores.
The FBI is cracking down on ‘crime tourists’ from South America who have exploited Virginia’s low bail laws to steal more than $2 million in a string of burglaries targeting high-end homes of Asian and Middle Eastern families before skipping bail and fleeing back home or to target homes in other states. Pictured is one of the affluent Virginia neighborhoods, near DC, which was targeted by the thieves
Feds then arrested four thought to be involved with the syndicate: Mario Valencia Asprilla, Jhonny Valencia-Valencia, Diego Montano Chasoy and Freddy Hernandez Angulo. All four are Colombian and thought to be behind the Fairfax robberies, police said.
A fifth member of the group, Josue Rodriguez Rolon, was also arrested in June. It remains unclear how any of the suspects came to enter the country.
With that said, Rolon has since been freed on bond, and is now considered a fugitive, court documents reveal. Montano Chasoy, meanwhile, was deported, but the other three remain in custody.
All three are scheduled to stand trial this year in Fairfax court on multiple burglary charges and other counts.
Detectives said Asian and Middle Eastern homeowners were targeted because the thieves believe that people of those cultures keep a lot of high value jewelry at home and have cash-oriented businesses.
Dan Heath, a supervisory special agent with the FBI’s criminal investigations division, said ‘South American theft groups,’ are a growing plague throughout the United States – and in countries including India , Britain and Australia, where they often employ similar tactics.
In January, British authorities took down dozens of crime tourists from Chile who stole more than $200,000 in a spring of robberies across the UK.
Police in Fischer, Indiana, also reported a series of home burglaries targeting expensive jewelry believed to be linked to criminal tourists.
‘A lot of these burglaries have been targeted specifically around jewelry, so more high-end homes, their jewelry is stored out in the open and they can be really high-valued items,’ Fischer Officer Jessica Stout told Fox 59.
Police in Nassau County, New York arrested their own band of criminal tourists earlier this month after police caught six men, all from Chile, breaking into a wealthy home, stealing thousands of dollars in jewelry and cash.
The visiting criminals are emboldened by their discovery of a ‘sweet spot’ in the American criminal system because their offenses don’t meet the requirements for federal investigation, and are often overlooked because the country is focusing on a frightening rise in homicides.
What’s more, no cash or low bail law allow the repeat offenders endless opportunities to continue to the brazen heists, even after being caught.
Like Virginia, California is one such state that criminals take advantage of due to its controversial 2014 law – Proposition 47 – that barred prosecutors from charging suspected shoplifters accused of stealing less than $950 worth of merchandise with felonies.
Many claim the law is what has led to a rise in burglaries and crimes throughout the state, especially in the San Francisco Bay area.
Larceny has seen a dramatic uptick in San Francisco, with police reporting 5,770 cases so far this year, a 27 percent rise since the same period last year.
Assaults have also gone up by 6.6 percent, with 434 cases reported so far compared to the 407 last year, and rape has also shot up by 11.4 percent, with 39 cases reported.
Although homicides remain the same at eight cases reported so far this year and robberies seeing a 10.6 percent drop, overall violent crime has gone up by 6.3 percent.