KOKOMO, Ind. — Central Indiana police have made more arrests as part of an investigation into South American theft groups after three Kokomo suspects were caught in Michigan.

In mid-April, the Kokomo Police Department announced the arrest of three women who were part of what they call a “South American Theft Group,” or SATG. The arrests, KPD said, were part of an ongoing investigation into SATGs that started in January of 2022.

Now, Kokomo authorities have arrested three more SATG suspects. This time, two women and a man wanted for theft, fraud and racketeering being caught in Isabella County, Michigan.

KPD identified the three suspects as:

  • Ecsal Erasmo Perez, 43, of Guatemala,
  • Macarena Andrea Faundez Gonzales, 28, of Chile, and
  • Paulina Diaz Gonzales, 31, of Chile.

Police said detectives looking into SATGs were alerted to the three suspects on April 1 after they were accused of stealing a wallet from a Kokomo resident. The three people are then accused of using stolen credit cards to purchase gift cards at other local stores.

Store managers alerted KPD of suspicious activity and KPD said the three people fled when they were confronted. Authorities were able to get a suspect vehicle description and alert surrounding law enforcement.

This vehicle tip led to several mid-Michigan police agencies apprehending the three suspects on April 4 in Isabella County. Authorities alerted KPD that they were the people responsible for the Kokomo theft and that all three were part of a South American Theft Group.

The three suspects, KPD said, currently reside in the Isabella County Michigan Jail. Arrests warrants have been issued by the Howard County Circuit Court for theft, fraud and corrupt business influence, police said.

The arrests are just the latest in the Central Indiana area where thieves tied to the South American Theft Group have been caught operating. Just recently, a victim in Greenfield said thieves tied to the group stole her jewelry. A string of home burglaries in Fishers was also believed to be perpetrated by members of the South American gang.

“They are always targeting affluent people in affluent neighborhoods,” said Former FBI Special Agent Paul Keenan and CEO of Phaktor Security Consulting.

Keenan said the FBI is partnering with local and state police to catch burglars faster.

“This crime is definitely on the FBI’s radar. It is foreign nationals committing it. It’s national in scope and these people are moving across state lines,” said Keenan.