On March 29, alleged jewelry theft gang leader Alexander Cuadros-Garcia pleaded guilty in Virginia federal court to racketeering conspiracy, according to a statement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
He faces 20 years in prison.
According to court documents, member of his gang conducted more than 15 violent robberies of jewelry salespersons and couriers, nabbing $4.6 million in jewels from victims in five different states, including Virginia, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Maryland. They also conducted pre-robbery surveillance in locations in California, Maryland, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Cuadros-Garcia and alleged fellow gang members were arrested in March 2012.
In most of the robberies, gang members would suddenly appear as victims approached or entered their cars, punch out the car’s windows, threaten the victims with a knife or gun, and steal the salespeople’s merchandise. They would then sometimes puncture the car tires or steal a cell phone to reduce the chance of pursuit.
“Fences” in New York City usually melted down the merchandise, the statement added.
“This is a very big case,” says Scott Guginsky, vice president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance. “This gang was doing extensive surveillance on jewelers up and down the East Coast. The ATF did an incredible amount of work on this.”
Cuadros-Garcia managed a restaurant, but Guginksy says it’s not that unusual for members of organized gangs to be involved with legitimate businesses.
To reduce the chance of travelling salespeople being targeted for robberies, the JSA’s Manual of Jewelry Security recommends that drivers always assume they are being followed, take U-turns, switch up their routes, and do other evasive driving techniques. In addition, they should never leave a line unattended, carry a cell phone at all times, and if they are robbed, they should not resist.