Houston man arrested in jewelry heists

September 10, 2009 10:31:42 AM PDT
Texas authorities on Tuesday arrested the alleged mastermind in a series of multistate heists at J.C. Penney stores that netted millions of dollars in stolen goods. The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office, working with the Pasadena Police Department in Texas, arrested Hector Castillo, of Houston, on two outstanding theft warrants and as a fugitive from St. Tammany Parish in a business burglary.

Castillo admitted his involvement in burglaries at J.C. Penney stores in Covington, Lafayette, Pasadena, Rosenberg, Texas, and Indianapolis, Ind., said Capt. George Bonnett, spokesman for the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office.

Castillo, who authorities say has 27 known aliases and had used as many as 16 Social Security numbers, is believed to have been the mastermind of the burglary ring, Bonnett said.

"The amount of man-hours that the investigators assigned to the case put in is mind boggling," he said.

"You're dealing with a guy that has 27 aliases. You can imagine how hard a guy like that is to find."

Detectives are still trying to identify his accomplices, Bonnett said.

He said detectives recovered about $3.5 million in stolen goods inside Castillo's house and two other storage locations.

Tim Lyons, spokesman for J.C. Penney, said the company has not put forward any estimate of the dollar value of what was taken or recovered.

"It's going to take a few days to inventory and sort out what belongs to us," he said. "It is a large quantity and a large dollar amount of goods that was recovered."

Bonnett said all five burglaries were fairly similar in nature.

In the Aug. 16 Covington burglary, Bonnett said, the burglars disabled the store's alarm system from the outside and then gained entry through the roof, lowering themselves down to the floor with a rope.

Once inside, the burglars filled plastic garbage bags with merchandise before exiting through a rear door, Bonnett said.

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