An alleged member of a massive, nationwide jewelry theft ring was arrested in Massachusetts this week.
Ventrous Stewart, 21, of Detroit was allegedly part of a “grab and go” robbery ring based in Detroit, but conducted heists around the country, according to an FBI affidavit. The ring has stolen about $1.2 million in goods through 45 heists in 22 states, according to investigators.
At least one of those robberies occurred in Massachusetts – and Stewart was allegedly the man who did it.
On Oct. 7, 2009, Stewart allegedly snatched an $18,000 watch from an employees hand at a jewelry store in Auburn, Mass. The watch broke and Stewart fled with only its dial, authorities said. Stewart was allegedly identified through fingerprints found in the store.
He was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Massachusetts Wednesday on an outstanding warrant casted by a Federal Judge in Michigan in April, the warrant does not specify the charges against Stewart.
The members of the ring went to great lengths to make the thefts appear as though they were isolated incidents, but a total of 19 individuals have been identified through wire tapped conversations on prison phone lines, according to an affidavit written by FBI agent Brian Max.
Typically, the ring carried out the thefts by sending one man into a store and ask an employee to show them an expensive watch or ring, Max wrote. The suspect would grab the jewelry from the employees hand and dash from the store to a waiting getaway driver, waiting in a rental car.
The ring would rotate who went into the stores and spread out the thefts across the country, Max wrote. The goods were brought back to three stores in Detroit where they were re-sold, according to the affidavit.
The most common items taken were Rolexes and diamond rings.
Stewart was previously arrested in Michigan in 2009 on a charge of grand theft, according to bustedmugshots.com.
Authorities have shut down a Boston-area prostitution and drug ring, bringing charges against a leader in Asian organized crime in the process, according to court filings.
Wei Xing Chen, along with two others, faces six charges stemming from allegedly operating brothels in Allston and various locations in East Cambridge since at least January 2009, according to federal indictments handed down earlier this month.
Chen is a “significant figure” in Asian organized crime in Boston and considered the head of the ring, according to an affidavit written by FBI agent Jason Costello. Boston Police, ATF and the IRS have all been involved in the investigation.
Over the last few years, the FBI has used street video surveillance to watch the brothels, which operated out of seemingly normal multi-family neighborhood homes.
Since 2009, the brothels operated out of at least four locations in Cambridge and Boston, federal agents said. Locations included – 171 Everett St. in Boston, 108 2nd St. in Cambridge, 185 Charles St. in Cambridge and most recently 87 Gore St. in Cambridge, according to an affidavit written by FBI agent Jason Costello.
Confidential sources have been sent to the brothels wearing wires.
Chen allegedly told prospective prostitutes they could make $5,000 to $6,000 per week. Some of the women were flown in to Logan Airport from other parts of the U.S., while others arrived by Chinatown bus services from New York to South Station in Boston, according to one affidavit. Chen told customers he had girls from Malaysia, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, according to court filings.
Many of Chen’s phone conversations have also been taped, either by a cooperating source or through a judge approved wire-tap, federal filings said.
In one conversation with a cooperating source, Chen said he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.
“I’m just opening a whore house,” he said. “(expletive) what kind of law am I breaking, right? There’s nothing.”
Along with Chen, Yue Q. He and Xiaohong Xue were indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute MDMA and BZP (aka Ecstasy), distribution of BZP, aiding and abetting and conspiracy to violate the Mann Act, drug forfeiture allegation and criminal forfeiture allegation.
In a phone conversation intercepted by wire tap in October 2010, Xiaohong Xue, aka “Tina,” explained to Chen how she brainwashed one young women, a Chinese national, who was homesick and wanted to go home to her husband and child in China. Xue convinced her to stay.
“I was giving her a lecture. I was brainwashing her,” Xue allegedly said in the wire-tapped talk. “You see, I’m always doing this kind of (expletive) things.”
Chen was arrested July 1 and is scheduled for arraignment Friday, July 8.
The three indictments are part of an on-going investigation that has brought federal charges against more than two dozen people involved in an organized crime ring operated out of Chinatown in Boston, according to an affidavit written by FBI agent Thomas Conboy.
Thus far, the investigation has led to the seizure of over $340,000, 13 firearms, 12,000 painkiller pills and exposed gambling and prostitution rings, Conboy wrote.