Five individuals have been arrested in connection with their suspected involvement in a series of violent robberies against traveling jewelry salesmen, one of which resulted in the death of the victim.
The arrests were announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas and Special Agent in Charge Eric K. Jackson of the FBI’s Dallas Division.
“Thanks to the efforts of our prosecutors, the FBI and our local and international partners, all five members of this alleged armed robbery organization have been apprehended,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco.
“We thank our Colombian law enforcement partners for their outstanding work.”
“The U.S. Department of Justice is committed to working vigorously with our partners at home and abroad to apprehend and bring this and other armed robbery groups to justice.”
“I commend the extraordinary efforts of the FBI and our local and international law enforcement partners in apprehending these brazenly violent fugitives,” said U.S. Attorney Parker.
“This extremely dangerous group of robbers is part of a larger organized South American theft group that has targeted members of the jewelry industry across this nation for a number of years.”
“Our community is safer as a result of getting these people off our streets.”
“This case is a testament to the exemplary work of the FBI’s Violent Crime Task Force,” said Special Agent in Charge Jackson.
“The agents on our task force worked hand in hand with state, local and international partners to relentlessly investigate these crimes and, ultimately, identify, locate and apprehend these violent fugitives.”
The following defendants were charged in a federal superseding indictment in October 2016 with one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, two counts of interference with commerce by robbery and related firearms charges.
- Pedro Louis Alvarez, 32, of Honduras
- Johnnattan Ramirez, 35, of Columbia
- Robert Riveros, 25, of Columbia
- Eslevy Vargas-Avila, 27, of Columbia, and
- Catherine Contreras-Beltran, 28, of Columbia
Ramirez, Alvarez and Riveros are also charged with one additional count of interference with commerce by robbery and related firearms charges.
Alvarez was arrested in New York City by the FBI and the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Department of Public Safety on June 27, 2016.
Contreras-Beltran, Vargas-Avila, Ramirez and Riveros were all arrested in Colombia by the Colombian National Police, between December 2016, and July 19.
The indictment alleges that on April 27, 2016, Ramirez, Alvarez and Riveros robbed a traveling diamond and jewelry salesman at gunpoint, taking the victim’s rolling case and a Nikon digital camera, among other items, while Alvarez conducted surveillance.
The indictment further alleges that on June 2, 2016, and June 9, 2016, Ramirez, Alvarez, Riveros, Vargas-Avila and Contreras-Beltran robbed two additional traveling diamond and jewelry salesmen at gunpoint, taking from the first victim a bag containing, among other items, a diamond scale and diamond gauge, and from the second victim a case containing jewelry.
According to the allegations, when the second victim attempted to retrieve his case from Ramirez’s vehicle, Ramirez drove away with the victim partially inside the vehicle, and Ramirez, Alvarez, Riveros and Vargas-Avila then removed the victim from the vehicle and beat him, which contributed to his to death.
An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury, and the defendants are entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.
The FBI Dallas Violent Crimes Task Force, the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Department of Public Safety, Arlington Texas Police Department and the Garland Texas Police Department investigated the case, with assistance from the Colombian National Police.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Robinson and Trial Attorney Joseph Wheatley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.