Cops Stop Thieves' Gold Rush

Police make arrests in string of burglaries targeting a particular ethnic group

By Anne Reynolds
|  Friday, Nov 13, 2009  |  Updated 6:44 AM EDT
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Gold Capers Nabbed

AP

Police say the thieves left electronics and other valuable jewelry behind, setting their sights solely on gold.

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Gold Capers Nabbed

Police say they've finally cracked the case of some serial burglars in Northern Virginia.
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Police finally cracked a prolific burglary ring that funneled gold and family heirlooms out of Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

Investigators believe the suspects may be responsible for 20 or more burglaries, and a discovery made at the time of their arrest explains why it was so hard to catch them: they were tuning in to police scanners to avoid the cops.

For weeks, cops in Northern Virginia have been baffled by the burglars' M.O.: they strike in the middle of the day, breaking into homes and stealing gold-- lots of gold-- while leaving other jewelry and pricy electronics behind. What had many even more concerned is how these thieves seemed to be picking their victims: nearly all of those targeted were of South Asian descent.

"These three suspects were targeting a particular community-- the South Asian community," Fairfax Officer Bud Walker said; "that's unacceptable in Fairfax County."

Victims say the manner in which the alleged burglars picked their victim means they should face more serious charges.

"They were picking and choosing Indian Americans and targeting them, and so we feel they should be charged with a hate crime," burglary victim Raman Kumar said.

The break in the case came yesterday, when investigators pulled over an SUV, and realized that the trio inside matched the description of the serial burglar suspects.

Francisco Gray, Dagoberto Soto-Ramirez, and his wife Melinda Soto each face nine felony charges, including burglary and grand larceny.

"When we served a search warrant on their vehicle, we found materials inside the vehicle that suggested they were going to commit a burglary," Walker said.

That evidence included a laptop, GPS, and that scanner, where the suspects could listen to police communications, and figure out where officers were.

Police say their investigation is just beginning, and they believe that many more charges could follow. The trio is now suspected in crimes that span several jurisdictions, and at least two states.

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