OC judge throws out plea deal in case involving alleged Chilean burglary ring

David González Image
Saturday, July 29, 2023
Plea deal thrown out in OC case involving alleged Chilean theft ring
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer believes the suspects came to the U.S. from Chile on tourist visas to commit crimes.

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (KABC) -- Four South American men accused of being a part of an organized burglary ring that targeted Orange County homes await their sentencing after a judge threw out a plea deal that would have given them each two years in prison.

Judge Scott Steiner took the deal off the table after the sentencing brief revealed new information on their alleged crimes.

It included the victim impact statement of a 6-year-old who wrote about her piggybank being stolen.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer believes the suspects - identified as Yerko Penamartinez, Oliver Palmapanguinao, Jussepe Berrazarivera and Christian Berrazacerd - are from Chile and came into the U.S. on tourist visas to commit crimes.

"They'll come in as if they're going to be tourists, but then they immediately start burglarizing homes and property and doing smash-and-grabs, and then they make their way across the country," Spitzer said.

The brief states the suspects burglarized nine homes in December last year. The first two break-ins took place in Yorba Linda on Dec. 1.

The next day, three more homes were hit in Laguna Hills and Ladera Ranch.

On Dec. 4, two more homes were burglarized in Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

The suspects were caught on Dec. 6 after allegedly breaking into two homes in San Clemente.

The suspects are accused of stealing more than $240,000 in cash, firearms, jewelry and documents like passports and birth certificates.

"These people need to be locked up for a long, long period of time and then they need to be deported," Spitzer said.

He said Chile needs to be removed from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization visa waiver program until they find a way to address "burglary tourism."

"It doesn't mean that Chileans won't be able to come to the United States," Spitzer said. "It just means they'll have to go through a more introspective process and the country of Chile will have to give us background check, or these people will not be allowed to come into the United States."

Spitzer said adequate sentences are needed to send a message to others that these type of crimes will not be tolerated in Orange County.

The suspects are due back in court in October.