3 more charged in theft, fraud case
May 21—A month after several Chilean women were arrested as part of a local racketeering investigation, police have now arrested three more individuals they believe were also involved in the case.
Escal Erasmo Perez, 43, of Guatemala, 28-year-old Macarena Andrea Faundez Gonzales and 31-year-old Paulina Diaz Gonzales, both of Chile, are each facing charges of corrupt business influence as a level five felony, fraud as a level six felony and a misdemeanor charge of theft, according to online court records.
Police say the trio joins 37-year-old Jennifer Elizabeth Valenzuela-Guajardo, 34-year-old Maryorie Polet Fernandez-Ormeno and 24-year-old Angie Fernandez-Mella, who were arrested April 19 on similar charges, per arrest records. The three woman have plead not guilty. Their bonds were all set to $20,000, no 10% and no bondsman. The three filed a motion for a bond reduction. Those requests were denied by Howard County Superior Court IV Judge Hans Pate.
Authorities note these six individuals are reportedly part of a South American Theft Group (SATG).
In January 2022, Kokomo Police Department officers responded to numerous incidents involving thefts from elderly females at various local stores, according to a Kokomo Police Department media release.
In those incidents, the victims' wallets were reportedly removed from their purses while the victims were distracted, and the alleged suspects then left the stores and purchased prepaid gift cards with the victims' credit cards.
One of these alleged incidents occurred April 1, and it reportedly involved one male and two females — later identified as Perez, Faundez Gonzales and Diaz Gonzales, per the release.
In that alleged incident, the three were accused of stealing a wallet from a Kokomo resident and using credit cards from that wallet to purchase gift cards, the release stated.
Then, when reportedly confronted by store managers, Perez, Faundez Gonzales and Diaz Gonzales allegedly fled the scene, the release noted.
Investigators state the three were later apprehended in Michigan as part of a joint investigation, and they are currently awaiting extradition back to Howard County.
This case remains active, and anyone with information is asked to contact Capt. Bruce Rood at 765-456-7332 or the KPD Hotline at 765-456-7017. You can also submit tips anonymously by calling Central Indiana Crime Stoppers at 1-800-262-TIPS, downloading the "Kokomo PD" mobile app or texting TIPKPD to 847411.