Chilean Crime Gang Games Visa System To Prey On Wealthy Neighborhoods Across The US, Authorities Say


Lisa Moore Contributor
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A rash of burglaries targeting wealthy neighborhoods across the country appears to be the work of foreign criminals exploiting tourist visas.

In the last two years, six wealthy homes in La Jolla have been robbed with no signs of the trend ending, and police theorize that a Chilean organized crime syndicated is targeting the community, NBC San Diego reports.

“They come here for a few months,” SDPD Lt. Bryan Brecht told NBC San Diego. “They engage in this activity, and they travel around the country. If folks do get arrested, history shows, they just bring in more folks behind them.” (RELATED: Illegal Immigrants Charged In Multiple Michigan Smash-And-Grab Operations)

In Michigan, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office created the Southeast Michigan Collaborate Arrest and Prosecute (SEMCAP) team, which brings together over 30 local and federal agencies to combat the transnational criminals targeting Oakland County mansions, Fox 2 reports.

Between 30 and 40 burglaries occurred from September to December, with thieves swiping jewelry, cash and even full-size safes, according to the outlet.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard warns that the criminals make use of technology — including trackers on cars, trail cameras and frequency jamming equipment — to surveil potential victims and disrupt security systems, Fox 2 reports. Authorities are waning homeowners to be on the lookout for unfamiliar cars and unexplained internet outages, which could indicate that they have been targeted, according to the outlet.

In December, Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County arrested a fifth Chilean man in connection with the South American theft ring, NBC Philadelphia reports. The suspects possessed photographs and GPS navigational directions to specific homes, as well as pry bars, reciprocating saws and glass-breaking tools, according to the outlet. Police said the five Chileans all carried either fraudulent identification or no identification at all, the outlet noted.

Burglaries at million-dollar homes in Oklahoma have been connected to the same Chilean theft ring, which has accounted for over $5 million across some 20 robberies spanning eight states, according to Oklahoma’s News 4.

“We believe that they all may be part of a burglary ring that is based outside of this country,” Oklahoma City Police spokesperson Gary Knight told the outlet.

As of February, Chilean burglars had allegedly targeted four homes in the Baltimore, with one reporting a loss of $820,000, according to the Baltimore Banner.

In Arizona, three people including a juvenile arrested for burglaries are believed to be part of a professional Chilean crime ring, according to 12 News.

“These are professionals,” Scottsdale Police Chief Jeff Walther said, 12 News reported Monday. “These are Chilean burglary crews that are coming into the country on a Visa Waiver Program.”

The same group arrested in Scottsdale has been connected to similar burglaries in California and Nevada, the outlet reports. (RELATED: GOP Rep Slaps Down CNN Reporter Who Claims Illegal Immigrants Aren’t Actually Committing Crimes)

In Orange County, California, four men from Chile with U.S. tourist visas allegedly burglarized nine homes in 2022, ABC 7 reports. They got away with $240,000 in cash as well as firearms, passports, and birth certificates, the outlet reports.

“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,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer told ABC 7 in July.

Spitzer has called for Chile to be removed from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization visa waiver program until the U.S. can address “burglary tourism,” the outlet reports.

“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 told ABC 7.