DENVER — Three people have been arrested and another is wanted in connection with a string of burglaries that targeted the homes of Asian business owners in Colorado and Wyoming in 2019, Fort Collins police said.
A total of 26 families were burglarized in the first seven months of 2019, with the total loss estimated to be as much as $1.4 million, police said Tuesday.
“In each case, suspects would target the family’s residence in broad daylight, knock on the front door for a few minutes to ensure no one was home, then forcibly enter through a door or an accessible window,” police said in a statement. “Once inside, the suspects ransacked the home and took cash, jewelry and safes.”
Police have said the burglaries involved the owners of small businesses such as restaurants and salons.
“Today’s announcement highlights the increase in crimes against Asian Americans. We in Colorado won’t tolerate it,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said. “Those who commit crimes against an individual or community because of their ethnicity or cultural background must be held to account.”
Fort Collins police conducted an investigation known as “Operation Daylight” and found that three males and one female carried out the burglaries as members of an organized criminal group with ties to South America.
In July 2020, a grand jury indicted three suspects in the U.S.
Police traveled to Florida in September and with the help of the U.S. Marshals Service and FBI, they arrested Yenny Zoraya Rodas-Florez, 30, and Santiago Hoyos Gaviria, 24, in the Miami area, according to police. This month, police arrested Carlos Florez-Molina, 34, in Doral, Florida. The fourth person is believed to be evading arrest in Colombia, police said.
The suspects have been charged with racketeering, conspiracy, 24 counts of second-degree burglary to a dwelling and 20 counts of theft and/or criminal mischief.
Attorney Joseph Anthony Gavaldon, who represents Gaviria, would not comment since the case is ongoing. Lawyers for the other suspects did not immediately return telephone messages.
The three suspects arrested in Florida were extradited to Colorado and were being held in the Larimer County jail.
“Every crime is wrong, but one focused against a particular race or ethnic group is particularly reprehensible.” Fort Collins Assistant Chief Tim Doran said.
Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.