A jewel thefts jaunt

South Amer­i­cans ac­cused over $500,000 rob­beries

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - News - MARK MORRI

A GROUP of sup­posed funlov­ing South Amer­i­can stu­dents vis­it­ing Syd­ney were in fact part of a “fly in, fly out”style crime gang sent to steal jewels and cash, po­lice al­lege.

Two Chilean mem­bers of the al­leged gang, which had been un­der sur­veil­lance by NSW de­tec­tives, were just mo­ments from fly­ing to San­ti­ago when po­lice boarded the plane and ar­rested them on Satur­day. The pair had hastily booked flights the day be­fore, af­ter po­lice ar­rested an­other al­leged gang mem­ber.

A fourth man, from Colom­bia, was also ar­rested at the air­port be­fore he boarded a flight. The four are due to face a Syd­ney court to­day.

Po­lice are still look­ing for other al­leged gang mem­bers.

“They are highly or­gan­ised and very pro­fes­sional in the use of dis­trac­tion tech­niques,’’ Prop­erty Squad head Chief In­spec­tor Gary Hutchen said

Po­lice al­lege the gang had so­phis­ti­cated mo­bile phones and ear­pieces to com­mu­ni­cate and wore dis­guises when they car­ried out at least 17 rob­beries net­ting well over $500,000 in cash and jewels across Syd­ney.

The group would al­legedly watch banks, from in­side or out­side, un­til a large with­drawal was made and then alert other gang mem­bers. They also tar­geted the Syd­ney Jew­ellery Con­ven­tion Cen­tre.

Dis­trac­tion tech­niques in­cluded us­ing a spike to flat­ten a tar­get’s car tyre, and when he went to change the tyre an­other gang mem­ber would bump into him and spill a drink on his jacket, po­lice al­lege. The apolo­getic per­son would put the jacket in the car, where a third gang mem­ber would steal the jacket con­tain­ing the money or jewels.

“Other dis­trac­tions in­cluded us­ing cash to tell (the tar­get) they had just dropped money or ask­ing for di­rec­tions,” Insp Hutchen said.

Stolen cash and jew­ellery was trans­ferred or mailed over­seas, he said.

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