Local jeweler relieved after arrests in $4.6M theft ring (2024)


Jim McEwen is feeling a lot safer these days. So are the salespeople who visit his three Long Jewelers stores.

Long Jewelers became part of a lengthy investigation into an international ring of jewelry thieves who committed violent robberies of traveling salespeople, snatching about $4.6 million in diamonds and other gems.

Federal authorities announced the results of that case with the arrests of seven Colombian nationals, some believed to be in the United States illegally. Six were in U.S. District Court on Monday where a magistrate judge ordered them jailed pending grand jury action.

Agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local police agencies have been watching the ring, which they called a South American Theft Group, for more than a year.

McEwen said he’s had to keep quiet about the case, knowing agents were out in parking lots conducting surveillance.

“They put a tremendous amount of time into it,” he said. “They’ve been working on it a long time.”

The agents reviewed nearly 1 million phone records, secretly recorded about 1,000 phone conversations and followed as many as 25 vehicles up and down the East Coast before arresting the suspects and charging them with 15 robberies. In one scary moment, agents almost got into a violent confrontation with the man suspected of being the ringleader.

“This group did their homework,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement. “We allege they were dangerous, patient, extremely mobile and struck swiftly.”

South American Theft Groups have been around since the 1980s, but only in recent years have they been targeting traveling jewelry salespeople, who often carry hundreds of thousands of dollars in precious gems.

Alexander Cuadros-Garcia, 37, also known as Brujo, is suspected of being the ringleader of the organization.

ATF Special Agent William Banks said in court Monday that Cuadros-Garcia was arrested last week after casing a jewelry store in Maryland. Banks said while Cuadros-Garcia never participated in the robberies, he was instrumental in planning them and “fencing” the stolen goods, mainly through Russians in New York’s diamond district.

An 89-page affidavit filed in court by ATF lays out the allegations against the ring. The affidavit says the robberies began in March 2010 and occurred in seven states. Several were committed in Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.

One particularly violent robbery occurred in the Richmond area. The victim, a traveling salesman, was left with a head wound and cuts to his hands that required 30 staples.

In April 2010, robbers followed another salesman as he took his merchandise to jewelry stores in Richmond, Long Jewelers in Virginia Beach and to Raleigh, N.C., where they struck, stealing $100,000 in jewels from the victim, according to the affidavit.

In February 2011, another salesman was attacked as he was about to check in to the Fairfield Inn at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. The robbers pushed him to the ground, used a knife to slice a backpack off his shoulder and ripped a pocket off his vest, leaving with $600,000 in jewelry.

On that day, ATF agents learned through phone records that Cuadros-Garcia had a 154-minute phone call with an alleged accomplice who is suspected of participating in that robbery, the affidavit says.

On Aug. 16, agents followed Cuadros-Garcia as he cased the Long Jewelers store on Shore Drive and then followed a salesman to Richmond and on to Annapolis, Md. Fearing the salesman was about to be robbed, they called him on his cellphone and warned him. The man, who was carrying about $2 million in jewelry, was not robbed.

That salesman had already learned to take counter-detection methods.

“He has had several friends robbed in the past doing the same job and he too had been robbed in the past,” the affidavit says.

On Nov. 15, the agents began following Cuadros-Garcia again. He went to both Long Jewelers stores in Virginia Beach and then he drove to Newport News and parked in front of Hauser’s Jewelers on Mariners Row.

On Dec. 13, Cuadros-Garcia spotted the undercover agents as he was leaving a Richmond-area restaurant. He drove his car straight at the agents sitting in their car, the affidavit says.

Cuadros-Garcia got out and asked the agents why they were following him.

“The surveillance team member denied knowing who Cuadros-Garcia was and Cuadros-Garcia said he might need to talk to a judge or a lawyer,” the agent wrote in the affidavit. Cuadros-Garcia then drove away.

Other suspects also discovered they were being followed.

“They are watching me, dude,” one suspect said in a recorded phone call, according to the affidavit.

In court Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller ordered six of the seven suspects jailed pending grand jury action. One was arrested in Texas.

For McEwen, the salespeople who stop by now are less nervous.

“I think they’re feeling better today,” he said.

The other suspects charged are: Leonardo Ortiz, 41; Lucesita Argueta, 32; Francisco Javier Montesrein-Rodriguez, 32; Raul Antonio Escobar-Martinez, 37; Jose Alfredo Rivero-Garcia, 51; and Cuadros-Garcia’s ex-wife Juanita Diaz, 42, all of the Richmond area.

Tim McGlone, 757-446-2343, tim.mcglone@pilotonline.com

Local jeweler relieved after arrests in $4.6M theft ring (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Horacio Brakus JD

Last Updated:

Views: 5652

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Horacio Brakus JD

Birthday: 1999-08-21

Address: Apt. 524 43384 Minnie Prairie, South Edda, MA 62804

Phone: +5931039998219

Job: Sales Strategist

Hobby: Sculling, Kitesurfing, Orienteering, Painting, Computer programming, Creative writing, Scuba diving

Introduction: My name is Horacio Brakus JD, I am a lively, splendid, jolly, vivacious, vast, cheerful, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.