A Jersey City man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for targeting Indian-American families for their high-quality jewellery in a series of home break-ins in 2009.
Miguel Ortiz and his crew of burglars took their search for gold to a "sinister" level, said Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey on Thursday sentencing Ortiz at the Burlington County Courthouse in Mount Holly, New Jersey, according to phillyBurbs.com.
Delehey, noting the sophisticated nature of Ortiz's operation and his extensive criminal history for similar crimes, said: "Man's quest for gold is nothing new. Some have acquired it by digging for it, others by stealing it."
"Here, they are sinister, analytical, methodical, and by a stroke of wrongful good luck, they learned how to locate the gold, not at the end of the rainbow, but in the homes of Indian-Americans. Mr. Ortiz and his fellow burglars are skilled and experienced in their craft."
Ortiz, 43, also was ordered to pay restitution totalling $35,000, an amount the judge admitted was just a fraction of the value of the gold jewellery and other valuables the defendant and his crew stole during seven break-ins in Burlington County from May to October 2009.
In addition to the nine burglaries, he county jury convicted Ortiz for two attempted break-ins, including one in Delran in which police tracked him and his crew in October 2009 before they could burglarize a home off Hartford Road, the website said.
Burlington County Assistant Prosecutor Stephen Eife told the jury that Ortiz and his crew targeted homes owned by residents with Indian names, including Patel, Gandhi and Singh, that they found through searches of telephone directories and Internet queries.
Ortiz burglarised or attempted break-ins at homes in Bordentown Township, Burlington Township, Delran, Evesham, Moorestown and Westampton, according to testimony.
The proceeds of the burglaries were pawned for cash, said the state's star witness, Arquimedes Pieranthony, who also faces prison time for his role and will be sentenced later. As part of his plea deal, Pieranthony had to testify against his friend.
The witness told the jury that he, Ortiz and another co-defendant shared the $60,000 to $70,000 take from one Moorestown job in which they stole about 100 pieces of jewellery.
Eife, who argued for a 30-year sentence with no chance of parole for 15 years, told the judge Thursday that investigators found "hundreds of prospective victims' (information) in his phone" when Ortiz was arrested.