| Crime |

South American Jewelry Thieves Terrorize Miami; Feds Offer $20K for Help

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In 2008, a New Times investigation brought you the story of the growing problem of South American gangs targeting local jewelers in violent robberies.

"Highly organized South American theft gangs" are targeting local merchants, we wrote, employing "sophisticated surveillance and commando-style assault tactics."

The gangs struck again two weeks ago, Miami's FBI office says, and the feds are offering $20,000 for help in tracking down the guys who did it.

The bad guys' latest crime came December 23, says Judy Orihuela, a spokeswoman for Miami's FBI office, targeting a jeweler outside a storefront on the 1800 block of SW Eighth St.

As the jeweler left the store, a robber approached from behind with a stun gun and an automatic weapon, possibly an Uzi or TEC-9.

After snatching a bag full of jewels worth more than $200,000, the robber zapped the jeweler and sped off with at least one accomplice in a van.

The jeweler gave chase until the 400 block of 17th Avenue, where the van screeched to a halt and one of the thieves jumped out and pumped a few rounds at the jeweler's car, hitting a passerby, Orihuela says.

The jeweler escaped unharmed. The robbers' van was found abandoned near NW 17th Avenue and Fourth Street.

Orihuela says the feds are looking for a Hispanic male in his mid-20s to early 30s, around 5'8" with a medium build and light complexion.

The FBI believes the men were part of a chain of violent South American gangs, Orihuela says, operating from Miami to New York, L.A., and Atlanta. The FBI's Miami office formed a South American Theft Group Task Force in 2003 to fight the problem.

Anyone with info on the latest theft and shooting should call the FBI at 305-944-9101. If that information leads to an arrest, there's a $20,000 reward on the line.

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