Officials say border crisis tied to break-ins orchestrated by Columbians, Chileans


(The Center Square) – The border crisis has hit several milestones, with an estimated 10 million illegal entries since January 2021, increased reports of infectious disease spreading, and a crime wave being reported in states nationwide.

A county executive from Long Island, New York, told U.S. House Homeland Security Subcommittee members at a hearing held earlier this month that illegal foreign nationals released into the U.S. by the Biden administration are dealing drugs, stealing cars, burglarizing and committing violent crimes.

Nassau County, New York, Executive Bruce Blakeman said in his county, “We have seen a surge in crime by migrants who have engaged in all types of criminal activity … Recently, a gang from Chile was arrested … only to be released without bail due to state laws that give more rights to criminals than to victims. These Chilean gang members were part of this migrant program … They disappeared. They may still be in the United States committing more crimes against the public. That is outrageous and it is dangerous.”

He said his constituents “do not want to take part in the misguided migrant program” and “want our border secure. They want to know who is coming into America … and to be properly vetted. This is not a humanitarian program. This is a foreign invasion.”

The Chilean gang he referenced has been identified by federal, state and local law enforcement officers in states across the country as directly linked to targeted break-ins as the South American Theft Groups (SATG). The transnational criminal enterprise is orchestrated primarily by Columbian and Chilean nationals who either illegally entered the U.S. or exploited a visa program, officials say.

In California, a multi-agency task force was created to target SATG-related crimes after investigators linked the group to burglaries committed in neighborhoods stretching from San Diego to Ventura County, according to multiple news reports.

In Delaware, law enforcement officials identified burglaries tied to SATG. The extent of the crimes was so bad that police departments encouraged residents to install comprehensive home security systems, and motion-sensor lights around the perimeter of their homes, establish a neighborhood watch program and install Automated License Plate Readers at the entrance/exit of their neighborhoods, WPVI-TV ABC News reported.

In Indiana, Chileans and Colombians were also apprehended for committing burglaries. “Generally, it’s high net worth individuals being targeted by these groups,” Paul Keenan, a former FBI Special Agent in Charge in Indianapolis, told Fox 59.

In Michigan, this month, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard created a multi-agency task force, SEM CAB, (Southeast Michigan Collaborate Arrest Prosecute), to respond to targeted break-ins in the Detroit area. Over 30 agencies are involved, including multiple police departments, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Border Patrol.

The primarily Chileans are “coming with very clear intent. Get in. Get as much as they can, get out,” Bouchard told WXYZ Detroit News.

In North Carolina, detectives have traced a wave of break-ins in multiple counties to SATG. One recently arrested suspect was turned over to U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, who processed him for removal, Queen City News reported.

In Ohio SATG gangs are targeting multiple neighborhoods. Special Agent Vicki Anderson told New 5 Cleveland, “We think they are here on visas, they’re from out of the country and they’re engaging in thefts across the U.S.”

Tennesseans are also being impacted. Brentwood Assistant Police Chief Jim Colvin told WKRN News, “These suspects are believed to be part of a group that comes to this country specifically to commit crimes in areas where there are large homes. They’re very coordinated, they rotate people in and out of the country, and they change locations so they’re not here long.”

As are Virginians. Goochland County Sheriff’s Office warned residents about SATG-related break-ins. “This group travels up and down the East Coast breaking into high-end residential homes and is comprised of hundreds of individuals, mostly foreign nationals here on … visas,” he told 6 News Richmond.

One SATG cell identified by Fairfax County police linked break-ins in Georgia to break-ins in Texas, South Carolina and North Carolina. Another cell based in New York and New Jersey was also operating in Fairfax and Montgomery counties in Virginia “around the same time and employing similar methods,” The Washington Post reported.

In Washington, D.C. suburbs, law enforcement officials arrested Colombian and Chilean nationals who either illegally entered the U.S. or exploited a visa waiver program to commit the burglaries, Dan Heath, a supervisory special agent with the FBI’s criminal investigations division, told the Post. “They represent an enormous threat … in our country.”

In one bust in Fairfax County, authorities said, it remained “unclear” how four arrested alleged thieves, all Colombian nationals, entered the U.S. Among them, one was released on bond, absconded and remains a fugitive; another was deported.

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