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Well-coordinated California robbery crew arrested in Bay Area, feds say

FREMONT — Federal authorities arrested several members of a group who for nearly two years allegedly pulled off one slick, well-planned heist after another, sometimes making off with hundreds of thousands of dollars in loot.
Arrested were: Federico Santiago Quiroz Lucca, aka “Christian” aka Jesus Melendez Guzman; Jose Manuel Lopez Molina, Juan Andres Bernal, and two unidentified men known only as “Roberto” and “Alfredo.” They were investigated by an FBI Major Theft Task Force based in the Los Angeles area.
Authorities say Lucca was the leader of the group and that he recruited Columbian nationals to help him pull off several high-stakes robberies, many of which employed distraction techniques. The robbers were patient, singling out potential victims and trailing them for extensive periods of time, if necessary.
The robberies occurred in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Orange County, Portland, and the suspects travelled to Las Vegas and Colorado, authorities said. Arrests were made in part thanks to a confidential FBI informant.
Generally, the robbers cased out three types of places: jewelry shows at convention centers, jewelry shops, and banks. Typically, a victim would be singled out, then separated from his or her money or jewelry using some sort of ruse or subterfuge, authorities said.
In some cases, a victim would be leaving a bank of jewelry show, then realize that one of their tires had somehow gone flat. They’d pull over to get their tire fixed, and a Good Samaritan would just happen by with some “fix it” spray. While the victim was distracted, the Samaritan would grab the cash or jewelry and run to a getaway car.
In another instance, a couple at a Southern California jewelry show said they were assisted by a man in a yellow vest, purporting to be a staff member, who insisted on helping them pack their stuff. After he left, the couple realized about $400,000 in jewelry was missing.
In the days before they were arrested, the group was seen driving around locations in Santa Clara, Fremont, and Castro Valley, including a convention center where a jewelry show was about to take place. The FBI arrested them at a Motel 6 in Fremont.
The four are facing charges of conspiracy and interference with commerce by threats of violence, and face 20 years if convicted. The case is being headed by the U.S. Attorney’s office at the Central District of California, which includes the Los Angeles area.

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