Washington Desis angry as gold thieves go scot free

Washington, Jan 26 (Calcutta Tube) Dismissal of charges against three picky burglars accused of stealing only gold from the homes of South Asian families in two Washington suburbs has left the area families livid.

The arrest of four more New Yorkers last week in connection with a burglary ring that targeted homes in Fairfax and Loudoun counties just two days after the dismissal of charges against three who were arrested in Centreville in November has not soothed their anger much.

The burglaries had stopped after three suspects were arrested for stealing millions of dollars worth of jewellery from homes in Fairfax County. But Now, several families say they’re worried about the burglaries starting again.

These families say the burglaries weren’t just scary, they were downright terrifying. They say for months on end, burglars targeted them, one after the next, hitting the homes of at least two dozen South Asians and taking precious gold from all of them.

‘We’ve had good night’s sleep since then,’ Raman Kumar, an IT professional, one of the early victims who had mobilised the Indian-American community over the issue, told IANS.

But then came last week’s preliminary hearing when Fairfax General District Court Judge Ian M. O’Flaherty dismissed 10 counts of burglary and grand larceny against Dagoberto Soto-Ramirez, his wife, Melinda M. Soto, and Francisco Gray.

Prosecutors showed the judge the suspects’ police scanner, an actual list they had of the streets they’d targeted, and even a lotion and a touchstone used to determine the purity of gold, but the judge threw out the case.

‘The judge, he rejected all the evidence, and dismissed the case,’ Kumar said ‘How much more evidence did the judge need?’ he asked.

‘I assure you the officers who worked so hard on these cases are just as disheartened as you are,’ Sophia Grinnan, Crime Prevention Officer at Fairfax County Police Department said in an e-mail to the residents.

‘Unfortunately, our legal system is set up so the very laws that protect us are subject to interpretation by judges,’ she said. ‘The downfall of Wednesday’s preliminary hearing was not due to loopholes in the written law or attorney experience but in evidentiary interpretation.’

Fairfax police said they also obtained warrants for conspiracy to commit grand larceny against Jonathan A. Brunett, 25; Nubiela Gaviria, 50; and Consuelo M. Rojas, 59, all of Queens, N.Y., and Karen Echevarria, 28, from the Bronx. All four are in custody in New York.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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