PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Police have arrested three Texans who investigators say periodically arrived in the Portland area to commit waves of burglaries before driving home to sell the loot.
The suspects focused on stealing gold and jewelry, and investigators have linked them to similar crimes in Colorado, Georgia, Virginia, Washington and their home state, said Sgt. Bob Ray, a Washington County sheriff's spokesman.
Ana Maria Gutierrez, 32; Deenys Yossimar Ramos, 24; and Rodney Riascos Portocarrero, 18, were arrested late last month in Houston. Gutierrez was flown to Oregon, where she was arraigned on burglary, theft, robbery and kidnapping charges. She remained in a Hillsboro jail Wednesday in lieu of $1.5 million bail.
Ramos and Portocarrero were in a Houston jail awaiting extradition.
A fourth suspect, 30-year-old Vanderley Ortiz, is a Canadian resident who may be hiding in British Columbia.
The string of more than 40 residential burglaries started in April 2011. The estimated value of the stolen gold, jewelry and currency, both foreign and domestic, is between $500,000 and $1 million.
Detective John Bennett said the burglars rented cars in Texas and drove more than 2,000 miles to the Portland area. They bought tools from local hardware stores and broke into homes when they suspected the places were empty. Twice, however, the burglars unexpectedly encountered residents. The burglars bound the victims but did not injure them.
At the conclusion of a break-in spree, they returned to Texas.
"For lack of a better word, they were doing team driving," Bennett said.
Investigators were uncertain how many times the burglars visited Oregon. Ray said it was difficult to track where the stolen property was sold because people can sell gold at many spots with few regulations. They believe most of it was unloaded in Texas.
The investigation remains active, and detectives think there are more victims. Detectives, for example, recovered a 50-ounce silver ingot that has yet to be tied to a reported burglary, Ray said.
Follow Steven DuBois at http://www.twitter.com/pdxdub.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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