Suspects from international organized crime ring arrested for targeting WA Asian and Indian homes

Three suspects involved in an international crime ring are facing several charges for burglary, attempted burglary and theft. Law enforcement claimed the men were part of a larger group from South America, accused of targeting hundreds of Asian and East Indian homes, and burglarizing them throughout the region.

Thursday, a judge found probable cause in each case during proceedings at the Snohomish County Courthouse. Each suspect appeared at the court hearing virtually with a Spanish-speaking interpreter. Bail was set at $500,000 for each man.

"The crimes that have been committed here are atrocious," said Maren McKay, communications manager for the Lynnwood Police Department.

Two of the suspects were arrested Wednesday in Tacoma. Detectives said people involved in the crime ring use many tactics to target people from Asian and East Indian communities. One tactic involves waiting in the parking lots of Asian grocery stores, putting trackers on victims’ cars and following them home to break in and steal large amounts of jewelry and cash.

"Also, finding their victims through online database name queries or surveilling them outside of their businesses, actually sticking GPS trackers on their cars and then following them home," said McKay.

Surveillance video showed at least one of the suspects casing the outside of a home in Snohomish County. Court documents stated the suspects were connected to at least 10 burglaries in Lynnwood and Mukilteo.

During one of the probable cause hearings, a detective said the suspects would typically throw rocks at windows and sliding doors in the back of the home to get access inside.

"In the court’s view, this is not a simple burglary or theft. It’s an organization," said a judge.

Detective Matt Barker from Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and Detective Brady Galloway from Lynnwood Police Department are following the crime ring and burglaries exclusively. The detectives said the group is responsible for at least 300 burglaries in King and Snohomish counties since 2021, totaling $5 million in losses of cash and jewelry.

Barker and Galloway said data from cellphone towers has been critical in their investigations, and explained the suspects would make phone calls during the burglaries.

"When you live in urban areas, like Mukilteo, like Lynnwood, like south Snohomish County, there are more cell sites in these particular areas. So, when you make a phone call, your phone should connect to the closest available tower," said Galloway. "The fact that the phone or phones are at these specific locations during the dates and times of these incidents is much more than just a coincidence."

Defense attorneys, however, believed there was not enough evidence to pin the men at any burglary location.

"I would argue, your honor, that the cellphone data that’s been provided is not sufficient because it simply indicates that the cellphone that they believe is linked with [suspect] was in a nearby area, but perhaps not even specifically at the address of these alleged burglaries," said a defense attorney.

Barker told the court that detectives are referring to one of the suspects by the name listed on a Washington state driver’s license he possessed. Barker claimed he was not sure if the suspect gave officers his correct name during his arrest in Tacoma.

"That identity is completely unconfirmed. He also has a Washington state driver’s license under a stolen identity from an individual from Puerto Rico and should be noted that during our contact with Mr. [suspect] yesterday, he actually identified himself using that name. We don’t even actually know Mr. [suspect] identity at this point," said Barker.

Both detectives are currently investigating pending cases in Bellevue and Kirkland.

10 people total have been arrested in connection to the crime ring. Still, officials said they were concerned the crime spree was not over.

"We do suspect that we’ll have some arrests in the future. Unfortunately, detectives do believe that this might be an ongoing problem for the foreseeable future," said McKay.