This Article is From Dec 04, 2010

Gold burglar targeting Indian-Americans jailed for 3 yrs

Gold burglar targeting Indian-Americans jailed for 3 yrs
Washington: An American woman, who along with her husband pleaded guilty to stealing nearly USD 600,000 worth of gold and other valuables from houses of Indians and other South Asians in Northern Virginia, has been sentenced to three years in prison.

34-year-old Melinda M Soto and her husband Dagoberto Ramirez (28) were convicted of stealing gold and other valuables from 37 residences, mostly of Indian-Americans, in Northern Virginia by a federal court in Alexandria.

The judge also ordered Soto to make restitution of USD 590,860.

"The defendants didn't just steal gold and gems; they stole irreplaceable heirlooms," said US Attorney Neil H MacBride.

"No sentence can replace those valuables, but the outstanding work of law enforcement officers has brought some justice to the victims in this case," he said.

Ramirez pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 11, 2011.

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One of the victims, Raman Kumar, told the judge that "our community still lives in fear" and that "the South Asian community is a victim of an economically motivated hate crime."

"I'd like to say I'm sorry to all the victims and all the people that I hurt," Soto, a New York City woman, said, still wearing the purple streaks in her hair that captured the attention of some of the neighbours who saw her, 'The Washington Post' reported.

Soto pleaded guilty on September 17, 2010, to conspiring to transport stolen property in interstate commerce.

According to court documents, from January 2009 to November 2009, Soto, her husband and their accomplice Francisco Gray agreed to travel to Northern Virginia for the purpose of burglarising residences belonging to South Asians, whom they believed kept large amounts of gold in the form of jewellery, coins and religious icons in their homes.

They agreed to transport the stolen property back to New York, where they would sell it.