A sophisticated Chilean crime ring is terrorizing one of Michigan’s wealthiest counties once again, looting several homes last week while their occupants were away on spring break vacations, the Oakland County Sheriff warned this week. 

Burglars in groups of three to six have targeted cash, safes, jewelry and high-end handbags in the reported break-ins, Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a press conference this week.

Among the reported thefts were $800,000 in jewelry and cash pilfered from a single home last week, he added.

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Multimillion-dollar homes, like the Oakland County residence pictured, have been targeted by the crime ring – there is no specific geographic area that the group is focusing on, the sheriff said. (WJBK)

“The Chilean gangs have been hitting us very hard,” he said. “They are super well-trained when they get here – highly organized. They look like ninjas – they’re all masked up, gloves. They each have a backpack with their particular set of tools for their job in the burglary.”

The thieves will often use a jammer to disable wireless alarms, Bouchard said – he implored residents to hardwire their alarm systems and make sure they are turned on when they leave home. 

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Chilean crime ring targeting Michigan homeowners

Surveillance footage from a recent looting carried out by the Chilean crime ring at a Michigan home, shared with Fox 2 Detroit by a homeowner. (WJBK)

The most recent in the slew of break-ins came on Friday night – Bouchard did not specify where in the county the looting took place. 

Chilling surveillance footage shared with Fox 2 Detroit captures one such break-in, where a cadre of hooded, black-clad men wearing gloves can be seen maneuvering through a homeowner’s backyard.

No specific location is being targeted by the group – instead, the sheriff said, the group targets homes that are empty, upscale and backed up to golf courses or woods so that there is “little or no observation from neighbors.”

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Chilean crime gang

The Oakland County Sheriff said at a press conference last week that the criminals are “highly organized,” operate in groups of three to six, and “each have a backpack with their particular set of tools for their job in the burglary.” (WJBK)

Several months earlier, Bouchard said, the agency launched a special task force specifically targeting the break-ins, catching seven Chilean migrants who had netted millions in area heists. In December, the majority of 30 to 40 break-ins across the county over a four-month period were carried out by Chilean nationals, according to C & G News

“Clearly, I think they’re back,” Bouchard said. “In the last three or four days, we’ve had a number of super, super similar what we call M.O.’s.

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Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said “the Chilean gangs have been hitting [the area] very hard.” (WJBK)

All seven of the Chilean looters nabbed last year came to the U.S. through a visa waiver program, which Bouchard implored the federal government to pause: 

“All of the intelligence estimates – just from Chile – we have 100-plus teams in operation right now in America,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they can’t visit but they just have to get a regular visa, which comes with a little more scrutiny.”

Bouchard advised residents to avoid posting about their vacation on social media until after they have returned home to Michigan: 

“A lot of people post a selfie – ‘On my way to Florida for two weeks,'” he said. “Well now you’ve just told the whole world I’m leaving town – even if it’s not these high-end folk – there’s a lot of people that troll Facebook and Twitter and social media. And you’ve just told everybody your house is empty.”

Chilean crime ring at work in Michigan

The criminals often use jammers on wireless burglar alarms – Bouchard suggested that residents hardwire their home security systems. (WJBK)

He also suggested that Oakland County residents save their local police department’s dispatch number to their phones – in one instance, police were unable to respond in time to a homeowner’s report that their alarm system had been triggered because 911 operators in Florida took crucial moments to route the holidaymaker’s call to police in his hometown. 

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“If you happen to be in Florida and your camera system alerts you to motion inside your kitchen – but for whatever reason your alarm wasn’t set or didn’t go off – and you dial 911 it’s going to go to Florida,” Bouchard said. “So now they’re going to try to figure out how to transfer it.”



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