Five illegal aliens have been linked to 70 burglaries in Fort Bend County and dozens more elsewhere, authorities reported.
The group of suspected thieves — five Hondurans and a Cuban — targeted apartments rented by people from India, Asia, and the Middle East, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls told reporters Monday.
Nehls said the group committed more than 100 break-ins in the greater Houston area since mid-2018.
He said some of the alleged thieves had been deported from the U.S. before.
“Some of these guys, the ring leader, has been deported more than three times,” Nehls said.
“You got to ask yourself that question: How do you get deported out of the country more than once? It is more difficult, in my humble opinion, to go through a Harris County toll (booth) than it is to get through our southern border. We have to do something about that.”
He attributes much of the problem to a partisan Congress that allows a porous southern border and local magistrates who set low bonds for offenders.
“Law enforcement, we’re fighting two fronts: We have to deal with partisan politics, not only at the local level, but at the federal level,” Nehls added.
Nehls said the thieves targeted apartments because they were less likely to have security measures in place, such as video cameras.
He said the group took cash and items they could easily pawn, such as high-end gold and other jewelry. They left behind flat screen TVs and laptop computers, he added.
Fort Bend County sheriff’s detective Sgt. Scott Heinemeyer said the thieves watched for specific individuals to leave their apartments, then one of the burglars would knock on the door to see if anyone was home. If no one answered the door, they would use a screw driver to break into the apartment.
Heinemeyer said detectives noticed similarities between the break-ins and believed the crimes may have been committed by the same thief or thieves.
He said the sheriff’s department reached out to fellow law enforcement agencies in surrounding communities to see if they had similar break-ins.
Beginning in January 2019, Fort Bend County detectives coordinated a multi-agency operation along with the Houston Police Department, Sugar Land Police Department, and Pearland Police Department, Nehls said.
Heinemeyer said detectives witnessed the six men break into apartments.
“One suspect, Marlon Rivera-Hernandez, admitted to trying many times to come back after his last deportation and hiring coyotes to help him get into Mexico from Honduras and then cross the river into the United States,” Nehls said. “He was committing burglaries within a couple of weeks of being back in the U.S.”
The six suspects arrested include: Marvin Manuel Menjivar-Mejia, 32; Denis Ariel Hernandez-Cruz, 28; Marlon Rivera-Hernandez, 41; Selvin Rivera-Hernandez, 33; Elvin Ayala Lopez, 19; and Yoandris Miro, 25.
Victims told the media that the items may not have had much monetary value, but in some instances were items with emotional value, such as jewelry from deceased relatives.
“The diligent efforts of these detectives and their ability to coordinate the activities within this department and with the officers of the other agencies is commendable and should stand as an example for all in the law enforcement profession,” Nehls said.
“It is just astounding that all six suspects have not let deportation stop them from coming back into this country illegally time and time again and unashamedly commit crime after crime. Something needs to be done about our border security!”
Two years ago, Fort Bend County deputies arrested 17 Colombians in connection with a spate of burglaries. They were in the country illegally and deported.