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December 6, 10

NEWS / New York Woman Sentenced to 36 Months for Gold Burglaries in Northern Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Melinda Marie Soto, 34 of Bronx, N.Y., was sentenced today to 36 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to steal nearly $600,000 worth of gold and other valuables from 37 residences in Northern Virginia. She was also ordered to pay $590,860 in restitution.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Colonel David Rohrer, Fairfax County Chief of Police; and Steve Simpson, Loudoun County Sheriff, made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.

“The defendants didn’t just steal gold and gems; they stole irreplaceable heirlooms,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “No sentence can replace those valuables, but the outstanding work of law enforcement officers has brought some justice to the victims in this case.”

Soto pled guilty on Sept. 17, 2010, to conspiring to transport stolen property in interstate commerce. According to court documents, from January 2009 to November 2009, Melinda Soto, her husband, Dagoberto Ramirez-Soto, and Francisco Gray agreed to travel to Northern Virginia for the purpose of burglarizing residences belonging to South Asians, whom they believed kept large amounts of gold in the form of jewelry, coins, and religious icons in their homes. They agreed to transport the stolen property back to New York, where they would sell it.

On at least six occasions during 2009, the three drove to Northern Virginia, where they rented a room at the Landmark Comfort Inn, in Alexandria, Va. From that location, they would drive to the vicinity of a targeted residence and then telephone the residence to determine whether anyone was home. If no one answered the telephone calls, they would drive to the target residence and Ramirez-Soto, dressed in a blue workman style uniform, would knock on the front door. If someone answered, Ramirez-Soto would claim to be responding to a service call, apologize, and leave. They would then go to a second targeted residence.

If no one answered, Ramirez-Soto and Gray would break into the residence through a back or basement door or window, using a large screwdriver or pry bar for that purpose. Once inside, they would search the residence for gold items or other easily transportable property, such as laptop computers, cameras, watches, and other jewelry. Melinda Soto would remain in the vehicle and monitor the police radio communications for the police district they were in. Because she and Ramirez-Soto maintained telephone contact, she could warn him and Gray if she heard any “threatening” police communications.

During 2009, Melinda Soto, Dagoberto Ramirez-Soto, and Gray burglarized 37 residences in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, all in the Eastern District of Virginia, stealing property worth more than $500,000.

Ramirez-Soto pled guilty to conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 11, 2011. Francisco Gray was deported to Peru before the federal investigation began.

This case was investigated by the Fairfax County Police Department, Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI Washington Field Office’s Violent Crimes Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Michael E. Rich and Special Assistant United States Attorney Paul Rosen prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.


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