South American Jewelry Thieves Terrorize Miami; Feds Offer $20K for Help

Categories: Crime

In 2008, a New Times investigation brought you the story of the growing problem of South American gangs targeting local jewelers in violent robberies.

Illustration for New Times Broward-Palm Beach by Kyle T. Webster
"Highly organized South American theft gangs" are targeting local merchants, we wrote, employing "sophisticated surveillance and commando-style assault tactics."

The gangs struck again two weeks ago, Miami's FBI office says, and the feds are offering $20,000 for help in tracking down the guys who did it.

The bad guys' latest crime came December 23, says Judy Orihuela, a spokeswoman for Miami's FBI office, targeting a jeweler outside a storefront on the 1800 block of SW Eighth St.

As the jeweler left the store, a robber approached from behind with a stun gun and an automatic weapon, possibly an Uzi or TEC-9.

After snatching a bag full of jewels worth more than $200,000, the robber zapped the jeweler and sped off with at least one accomplice in a van.

The jeweler gave chase until the 400 block of 17th Avenue, where the van screeched to a halt and one of the thieves jumped out and pumped a few rounds at the jeweler's car, hitting a passerby, Orihuela says.

The jeweler escaped unharmed. The robbers' van was found abandoned near NW 17th Avenue and Fourth Street.

Orihuela says the feds are looking for a Hispanic male in his mid-20s to early 30s, around 5'8" with a medium build and light complexion.

The FBI believes the men were part of a chain of violent South American gangs, Orihuela says, operating from Miami to New York, L.A., and Atlanta. The FBI's Miami office formed a South American Theft Group Task Force in 2003 to fight the problem.

Anyone with info on the latest theft and shooting should call the FBI at 305-944-9101. If that information leads to an arrest, there's a $20,000 reward on the line.

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