HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — A multi-agency racketeering bust dubbed ‘Operation Trifecta’ has resulted in the arrest of six people for two dozen burglaries across Tampa Bay totaling more than $1 million, according to investigators.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Pasco Sheriff’s Office and Tampa Police Department credited interagency cooperation for the success of a case during a press conference Tuesday.
“These suspects were basically shopping for luxury items inside our homes,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
Chronister said their investigation started in the Odessa, Keystone and Lutz area of Hillsborough County.
“During one of the burglaries that occurred within minutes of each other the suspect stole a 38 caliber handgun and at the other home the homeowner was actually home. She hid in fear while calling 911,” Chronister said.
Investigators said suspects used a white utility van and wore reflective vests to disguise themselves as construction workers, targeting homes that appeared to have items worth value.
“The residents, homeowners, were doing everything they could and again these individuals wanted to work under the disguise of making everyone who looked at them 'hey these are construction workers they’re supposed to be here,'” said Chronister.
Detectives from the three agencies soon realized they were working cases with similar operations. They said they’ve linked six suspects to seven residential burglaries in Hillsborough County, 15 within Tampa and two in Pasco County.
"I don’t like to live in fear but it certainly makes me more worried having a family and just the thought that they’re going to hit in the middle of broad daylight," said Ryan Whittemore, one of the many victims in South Tampa. "It’s just nice to have people like that off the streets."
In Pasco County, investigators said one case had a value of around $900,000, involving memorabilia like a Jimmy Hendrix guitar, Beatles memorabilia and Salvador Dali artwork.
“You’re talking about a lot of different unique things. So when our investigators were able to tie this together with Hillsborough with Tampa we did a search warrant within Pasco County and it’s amazing when you talk to the detectives you say 'how was the search warrant' and they say 'these people just had jewelry everywhere,'” said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.
Nocco said the other case was valued around $30,000. In that instance, a homeowner had a glass shower company over to do work and felt something wasn’t right. She collected images and she and a detective worked to identify the people in the photos.
"That started unraveling the case. Tampa, Hillsborough everybody starts putting everything together but I give credit to that victim,” said Nocco.
In Tampa, police said the burglaries resulted in more than $500,000 of property stolen.
“The relationships we had made the difference in this case. In the city of Tampa in a period between may and October we had 15 residential burglaries in south Tampa we were able to make arrests based on the teamwork of these agencies. The mo was similar in the same cases. Forced entry in the rear of the residence targeting high-end jewelry,” said Tampa Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw.
Investigators said undercover detective work led them to find an area next to a daycare where they believe the suspects would meet before and after burglaries.
All six are in custody. Investigators said they believe more cases could be linked to them.
The sheriff's office said Ernesto Hinojosa, 45, Yuniel Hinojosa-Gallardo, 31, Arleys Bonet Mustelier, 39, Yarisley Cuervo Ryes, 27, Yasmani Hernandez Rodriguez, 31, and Alain Rodriguez Roig, 28, were arrested. The Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the defendants.