Washington Gold Thieves Targeting South Asians Escape Charges

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Feb 26 (IANS) Much to the chagrin of Indian-American residents of Washington area, a US court has thrown out most charges against three burglary suspects who allegedly targeted South Asians only to grab pure gold jewellery.

Five months after a string of gold thefts in Fairfax and Loudoun, Virginia suburbs of the national capital, a couple and another man, all from New York City, were arrested and charged with burglary.

But the cases against two of the three defendants have been dismissed in Fairfax, and only the attempted burglary charge heard in Fairfax County General District Court Wednesday remained.

The case against only one accused was sent to a Circuit Court grand jury by General District Court Judge Ian M. O'Flaherty.

Last month, O'Flaherty threw out 10 counts apiece that had been filed against the three, after finding that police had not conclusively linked them to incriminating evidence found in their rental car and hotel room.

Earlier this month, a Loudoun judge threw out an additional six counts against another accused. He faces no criminal charges, but he is being held on an immigration detainer, police said.

"We're very frustrated," said Raman Kumar, one of about two dozen homeowners in Fairfax and Loudoun whose homes were robbed last summer and autumn.

"The burglars apparently knew that Indian and South Asian families keep 22-karat gold items in their homes and pass them from generation to generation. No more," Kumar said.

"Most South Asians are not keeping gold in their houses anymore," said Kumar, who has organised a group of South Asian families to communicate about crime and the pending cases.

He said residents have begun joining neighbourhood watch groups and are more willing to keep their valuables in banks.

Four other New Yorkers face pending conspiracy charges in Fairfax for their alleged involvement in the ring, police said.


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