Alleged Jewelry Fences Arrested

A man and a woman who allegedly disposed of at least $10 million worth of jewelry stolen from traveling salespeople were arrested May 5 by the Los Angeles police. They are identified by police as Catalina Palacios, 36, and John Salguero, 27, both residents of New York state. Palacios reportedly has a jewelry store in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York.

The arrest is “a big one,” according to John Kennedy, president of Jewelers’ Security Alliance, which assisted police in tracing and identifying some of the stolen jewelry. The woman is “a major fence [receiver of stolen goods] for the Colombian theft gangs who prey on traveling salespeople” in the United States, he said.

The activities of Palacios and Salguero were monitored for several months by the LAPD Commercial Crimes Division (CCD) and the FBI, who have a joint jewelry crime task force in Los Angeles.

According to Kennedy, the pair allegedly “made at least 20 trips since fall 2002 to U.S. cities where salesmen had been robbed,” on dates shortly after the thefts. On May 1, say Los Angeles police, a jewelry salesperson was robbed of $500,000 worth of jewelry when his car was burglarized in the city of Arcadia by a South American theft gang.

On May 5, CCD detectives learned Palacios and Salguero were flying from New York to Los Angeles. After they landed, Los Angeles detectives followed them to a local hotel, where the two met with an unidentified individual in their hotel room. Shortly afterward, the pair left the hotel with a package that they took to an armored shipper and sent to Palacios’s store. At about 8:30 p.m., police arrested the couple and booked them under the California penal code for receiving stolen property. On May 6, CCD detectives, using a search warrant, took possession of the package the couple had mailed and found it contained the jewelry stolen on May 1.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has since filed felony charges against the couple. Their bail is set at $1 million each.

Based on the Los Angeles arrest, New York City police and the FBI believe Palacios and Salguero may have purchased stolen jewelry valued at more than $10 million from South American theft gangs—which the Los Angeles police report calls “serial thieves”—in recent months.

One of the lead investigators on this case was Detective Michael Woodings of the Los Angeles police, the recipient of JSA’s James B. White Award to Law Enforcement in January 2002.