Law enforcement calls them a South American theft and robbery group. These groups target traveling jewelry salesmen nationwide. But they always need some someone to take the stolen goods off their hands.
Five men from Texas, Florida, New York and Colombia did just that until the feds caught up with them. They’ve since been sentenced to a combined 190 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $7 million in restitution for allegedly purchasing the stolen jewelry.
The five men, Romelio Riveron, Elkin Acosta Lopez, Rubenhav Pinkhasov, Harrison Corridor and Yuri Alishaev, also laundered money for the jewel thieves, including several who robbed a traveling salesman at gunpoint in Irving. Then, the thieves beat the man to death.
Lopez, 46, admitted in court to flying back and forth between his hometown in Bogota, Colombia, and Texas to meet the robbers and buy the stolen jewelry. He would then go to New York City to melt down the jewelry and arrange for it to be sold in the U.S. or back in Columbia.
The FBI’s Dallas Field Office’s Violent Crime Task Force arrested Lopez at a New York airport in 2018 after he returned from Colombia.
Corredor, 29, went by the name “Mono.” A resident of Queens, New York, he said in court that he connected Lopez with the robbers and helped arrange the sales. One time, he handed one of the robbers a bag of cash for several stolen Rolex watches. Corredor said he knew the jewelry was stolen and took a portion of the proceeds.
Daniel Gimenez, a special agent with the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force in Dallas, said the robbers knew Riveron by the nickname “Kitty.”
“They knew they came from robberies and thefts,” Gimenez said in court. “[Riveron] knew — he knew they were stolen property.”
More than one of the robberies that supplied Riveron’s jewels ended fatally. The thieves followed a man named Mohammed Sheik to a gas station near DFW Airport, where they stole all of his jewels.
Sheikh "held onto the car because he was not insured and his life savings was in that jewelry line,” Gimenez said. “He was dragged for approximately 2 miles and died as a result of a robbery.”
Pinkhasov, 60, helped move the stolen diamonds from Texas to Florida and to New York. In 2015, he made two purchases from Colombian jewel thieves. The jewels he acquired were worth more than $1 million.
Alishaev, 49, is a prominent jewelry dealer in New York City. In court, Alishaev admitted to buying $500,000 of stolen diamonds from Pinkhasov, who owned a jewelry store in Miami. He and Alishaev agreed to share the profits if they were fruitful, but once they heard the FBI was investigating, they agreed to never discuss the deal again.
In March last year, Riveron pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to launder money. The court sentenced him to 32 months in federal prison and ordered him to pay $2,321,491.61. As of Sept. 21, Riveron had paid back about $230,000.
Lopez and Corridor also pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to launder money. The two were sentenced to over 60 months each in federal prison and ordered to pay over $3 million in total.
In 2019, Pinkhasov pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to transport the stolen goods. He was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $1 million.
Alishaev conspired with Pinkhasov and concealed the crimes. He pleaded guilty to concealing a felony and was sentenced to probation. He was ordered to pay over $1 million and has paid it in full.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas charged 20 individuals belonging to South American theft and robbery groups between 2016 and 2018. All of them have been convicted and sentenced.