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Sting operation catches OC car burglary ring

January 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A car burglary ring in the O.C. has been broken up, and investigators say the suspects targeted high-end shoppers.Many of the crimes happened during the holidays as the suspects targeted shoppers coming out of the Apple Store and other electronic stores. They would follow the shoppers to their cars, and when the victims left the items in their vehicles, the burglars would strike.

"They may be linked to as many as 80 such crimes from Ventura to down here in Orange County. The district attorney in Orange County has filed at least 28 cases and it's still an ongoing active investigation, and there may be many, many more," said Jim Amormino, Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman.

Garzon Diaz, Louis Lopez and John Rodriguez are now facing 28 charges of burglary and grand theft.

It was in Mission Viejo where authorities finally caught up with the suspects. The Orange County Sheriff's Department set up a sting, and authorities say that they caught the group red-handed.

"We put a plainclothes officer posing as a customer. He did purchase a computer in the Apple Store. The suspects followed the undercover investigator to another mall close by at Avery and Marguerite Parkway. They broke into the vehicle and stole the computer," said Amormino.

Deputies say that the crime should serve as a reminder to shoppers to be aware of their surroundings.

"Be vigilant to the people around you, and again, try to lock the computers and any presents in your trunk. It makes it a little harder for them to get to it," advised Amormino.

At least one of the suspects is a Colombian national, and investigators are looking into whether the group is tied to a larger crime ring.

All three suspects were living in the Los Angeles area, and the crimes allegedly took place during a one-year period.