Sheriff: 17 Colombian men linked to 120 Houston-area burglaries

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A three-month investigation focused on burglaries investigators have called "unusual" has resulted in the arrests of 17 men from Columbia.

The arrests are the result of combing through 120 burglary calls which occurred over the last year, according to the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office. They describe the suspects as Colombian Nationals who targeted those of Middle Eastern, Asian and Pakistani descent.

Detectives say the men were responsible for 49 burglaries in 2016 across Fort bend, Harris and Brazoria counties.

"We do know that they worked in groups. separate groups," Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said.

He says the men would break the glass in master bathrooms and seek out expensive jewelry, high-end purses and cash.

"They stayed inside that master bedroom focused on the jewelry and the money and they were gone. Very quickly," Nehls said.

Detectives began connecting the cases at first because of their timing: they found in curious that they occurred in the evening, not the middle of the day as they say burglaries usually are. It's not clear how the suspects chose their targets.

Victims in Fort Bend county live in New Territory, Cinco Ranch and Greatwood.
"We've been hearing about this for quite some time," said Imam Tauquer Shah at the Maryam Islamic Center in Sugar Land. They've been working with friends and neighbors, trying to make them less attractive targets.

"They should be vigilant. Make sure they don't carry jewelry in their homes. Make sure they don't carry large sums, large amount of cash, in their homes." He said.

With the help of HPD, the alleged burglars were taken into custody. All of the suspects are said to be Colombian.

Four suspects in Fort Bend County Jail are under holds by immigration officials, including Carlos Alberto Riasco Valencia, 35; Layonel Mosquera Mondragon, 31; Harold Jesus Lerma Mosquera, 43; and Reynaldo Rivera Centeno, 44. Some have been deported before, at least one of them twice.

Nehls says Valencia was deported after burglary convictions in 2012 and 2014. Torres was deported in 2014 and, according to Nehls, Torres has known ties to the Colombian terrorist group "FARC".

Seeing these men back in the U.S. and allegedly committing these crimes, Nehls blasts the federal government's policies toward immigration. He says something more must be done to stop deported criminals from returning to the us.

"Quite honestly, I think it's shameful that they aren't doing everything they possibly can to protect the American people," said Nehls.

The sheriff's office says its not a bad idea to get your alarm company to monitor the master bathroom window for breakage if you can, so it will sound an alarm if broken.
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