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Robbery crew stole $1M+ in jewelry from Asian-owned stores in 4 states: Prosecutors

Members of the alleged crime ring terrified their victims and stole "hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of jewelry from hardworking families," an FBI official said

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Federal prosecutors say they have charged 16 members of a violent crime ring that is responsible for armed carjackings, robberies and jewelry store thefts in Virginia, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Members of the alleged crime ring are accused of conspiring in D.C. to target jewelry stores owned by Asian Americans, the U.S Attorney’s Office for D.C. and other federal law enforcement agencies said at a news conference Wednesday.

“There was a belief from the conspirators, we allege, that these type of jewelry stores would have jewelry and particularly gold of a certain kind that would be easier to sell on the fence market,” U.S. Attorney for D.C. Matthew Graves said.

Law enforcement officials say the suspects stole more than an estimated $1 million worth of jewelry and terrified their victims.

“The defendants targeted small businesses along the East Coast, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of jewelry from hardworking families,” David Sundberg of the FBI’s Washington Field Office said.

These nine stores were robbed in four states, officials said:

  • Jan. 7, 2022: Yasini Jewelers in East Falls Church, Virginia
  • June 10, 2022: Virani Jewelers in Iselin, New Jersey
  • Sept 20, 2022: Sonia Jewelers & Boutique, in Springfield, Virginia
  • Oct. 25, 2022: Paradise Jewelry Store, in Paterson, New Jersey
  • Nov. 10, 2022: Baral Jewelers & Gifts, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • Nov. 27, 2022: Sara Emporium Jewelry & Boutique, in Springfield, Virginia
  • Dec. 6, 2022: Kishek Jewelers, in Jacksonville, Florida
  • Dec. 22, 2022: Chintamanis Inc., in Franklin Park, New Jersey
  • Jan. 27, 2023: Princess Diamonds, in Falls Church, Virginia

Fifteen men from D.C., Maryland and Virginia and one from California are charged with crimes including armed carjackings, armed robberies, money laundering and firearms offenses.

Graves told reporters the first arrests in the case came after two of the suspects were arrested by D.C. police on gun charges.

Eight of the suspects were already in custody on other charges; eight others were arrested on Wednesday.

Seven firearms were recovered, including a machine gun, prosecutors said. A safe with $300,000 was found in one home during a search, they said.

One suspect also was charged with three carjackings, including at least one in Maryland.

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.

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