SANTA ANA, California – The ringleader of a prolific robbery crew that targeted traveling jewelry salespeople, following them for many miles at times and inflicting at least $835,000 in losses, was sentenced today to 45 months in federal prison.
Federico Santiago Quiroz Lucca, 52, a.k.a. Christian Sergio Alessandro Hernandez Valenzuela, of the Rampart Village neighborhood of Los Angeles, was sentenced via videoconference by United States District Judge James V. Selna, who also ordered him to pay $835,000 in restitution. Lucca pleaded guilty in December 2019 to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.
From October 2017 until April 2019, Lucca and his co-conspirators surveilled and conspired to rob a series of jewelry salespeople and bank customers in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the San Francisco Bay Area and Denver. Lucca led and organized the crew’s activities, enlisting help from several Colombian nationals who traveled to Los Angeles to participate in the conspiracy and robberies. He also used his apartment as a base of operations and meeting place where some co-conspirators lived, and equipment and stolen goods were stored.
The various heists followed a similar pattern: a member of the crew known as a “scout” identified a victim who was likely to be carrying jewelry or cash. The victims typically were jewelers conducting business at jewelry stores or malls in Orange County, the Jewelry District in downtown Los Angeles, or at various trade shows. The scout followed the victim, and would wait for an opportunity when the scout and co-conspirators could rob the jeweler.
The co-conspirators followed victims to locations such as gas stations and hotels, where the defendants used a ruse, such as puncturing a car tire to stop the victim, and then posed as a Good Samaritan, or simply used force, to rob the victims.
For example, on February 8, 2018, Lucca and his crew spent four hours following a traveling jewelry salesman making rounds on behalf of his employer to jewelry stores in Orange County. As the victim returned to his car after stopping in Cypress, he was violently pushed from behind, falling into his car door, and his bag containing approximately $400,000 in jewelry was stolen.
In a January 2019 incident, a couple who operated a jewelry business in Connecticut was participating in a jewelry show at the Los Angeles Convention Center, when a man wearing a yellow and orange safety vest asked to help them pack up their belongings. The man in the safety vest ended up pushing their large cart with all their belongings – including a bag containing approximately $400,000 in jewelry – and the bag was later discovered to be missing. Evidence subsequently developed by investigators determined that Lucca’s robbery crew had tracked the victims for days.
Lucca and two co-conspirators were arrested in April 2019 in Northern California after they surveilled various locations, including jewelry stores, a residence, and the Santa Clara Convention Center, where a jewelry show was scheduled to occur. They have been in federal custody since that time.
The total admitted losses in this case were at least $835,000.
Three of Lucca’s co-conspirators – Jose Manuel Lopez Molina, 48, a.k.a. Nestor Eduardo Munoz Laguna, of Colombia; Roberto Alonso Castellanos, 51, a.k.a. Pablo Garzon Leon, of Pomona, and; Jose Oscar Cupitre Nuñez, 48, of Australia, — pleaded guilty to criminal charges in this case. Castellanos and Molina received prison sentences. Nuñez’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 26. A fifth defendant, Roberto Melendez Falcon, 54, a.k.a. Arnulfo Delgado Rengifo, of Los Angeles, is scheduled to go on trial in this matter on January 26, 2021.
The FBI and Los Angeles Police Department investigated the matter.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Khaldoun Shobaki of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section and Joshua O. Mausner of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.