FISHERS — South American theft groups are targeting affluent homes in Hamilton County and robbing thousands of items from them, according to local law enforcement.
“Generally it’s high net worth individuals being targeted by these groups,” said Paul Keenan, the founder of Phaktor Security Consulting and former FBI Special Agent in Charge in Indianapolis.
Fishers police have investigated several instances that appear to be the work of these groups.
“We believe these groups are active in fishers from time to time,” FPD Sgt. Tom Weger said.
Weger said the groups are made up of people from countries like Chile and Colombia who come to the United States to rob homes. A Fishers home was robbed as recently as July 4, 2022, when two suspects were arrested for trying to steal $25,000 worth of items from a house on Allister Drive.
“These specifics theft groups are very organized, they’re very sophisticated,” Weger said.
Carmel police investigated three of these types of burglaries in 2021, 10 in 2022 and are already looking into seven so far in 2023.
“They will conduct surveillance on their location prior to going out there to rob the house,” Keenan said.
Keenan said the first known activity from these groups was in Los Angeles back in 2016. The theft groups earned the names of the “Tourist Burglars” due to how they got into the country. Keenan said the groups were part of a special VISA program allowing them to visit the country as tourists.
”It was system where all they had to do was show up with a passport at an airport and they are automatically being let in the county for 90 days,” Keenan said.
Keenan said the policy has since been changed.
Carmel investigators believe a home in a gated neighborhood off 106th Street in Carmel was robbed by one of these groups.
Court documents say that an estimated $250,000 in bags, jewelry and more was stolen.
“The goal for them is to get as much out of one hit as possible,” Keenan said.
Court documents show four suspects, all from Chile, were arrested a few days later with stolen goods from the Carmel home.
Tamara Masiel Ruiz Saldias, Ignacio Antonio Ruiz Saldias, Jeremy Jorge Jesus Linai Martinez and Marcelo Antonio Munoz Badillo were all arrested.
FPD Sgt. Weger said he wants neighbors to prepare themselves.
“We want the neighbor to understand what’s normal activity for each other,” Weger said.