More gold burglary cases dismissed in Loudoun County
The collapse of the police investigation into the burglaries of more than 30 homes in Fairfax and Loudoun counties continued Thursday when Loudoun prosecutors dismissed 12 more charges against the two remaining defendants there.
Burglars targeting homes owned by South Asians, and then stealing only pure gold and ignoring other valuables, occurred for months last summer and fall, until three New Yorkers were arrested in November in the Clifton area of Fairfax.
Now, only one charge, an attempted burglary in which nothing was taken, remains against one defendant in Fairfax. Two other defendants have no criminal charges, though one remains held on an immigration detainer, prosecutors said.
In Loudoun, General District Court Judge Julia Taylor Cannon last month dismissed six burglary and grand larceny charges against Francisco Gray after a lengthy preliminary hearing. Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney James Plowman said Thursday that the evidence against Gray's co-defendants -- Dagoberto Soto-Ramirez and his wife Melinda Soto -- was essentially the same, and that Cannon would again hear the case.
Plowman said prosecutors felt Cannon would likely dismiss these cases again. "There was a lack of evidence," Plowman said.
"The community's completely shocked," said Raman Kumar, one of the victims from Fairfax who has followed the cases and communicated with other victims. "They should have gone forward and let the judge decide. At least they should have tried."
In a Fairfax preliminary hearing in January, police revealed they had not found any stolen gold or other items when they arrested Gray, Soto and Soto-Ramirez, though they did find a police scanner and large screwdrivers in their rented Ford Escape.
Evidence found in their hotel room -- a list of addresses indicating Indian homeowners, police radio frequencies and police district boundaries -- had not been located until long after the room had been cleaned out, and was excluded by Fairfax General District Court Judge Ian O'Flaherty.
After O'Flaherty dismissed all but one Fairfax charge, prosecutors said they would consider indicting the three defendants anyway. The grand jury meets on March 15. Soto-Ramirez is being held on one charge of attempted burglary, after a victim testified she saw him in her house. Gray is being held for immigration. No charges remain against Melinda Soto.
-- Tom Jackman
March 4, 2010; 5:10 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax , Loudoun , Tom Jackman , Updates
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