KOKOMO, Ind. — More thieves tied to a South American theft group have been busted in Kokomo after reportedly stealing wallets out of old women’s purses while they were out shopping.

According to the Kokomo Police Department, three women who authorities determined were from Chile were arrested on Monday in connection to the robberies. They face charges of theft, fraud and racketeering.

Police identified the three suspected thieves as Mayorie Polet Fernandez-Ormeno, 34; Jennifer Elizabeth Valenzuela-Guajardo, 37; and Angie Fernandez-Mella, 24.

Police said the three women were identified as being part of the “South American Theft Group” and were driving a rented 2023 GMC Acadia that had the license plate covered in order to avoid detection.

Police said the women stole from numerous elderly women with reports stretching back to January of 2022. The thieves reportedly distracted the older victims while they were shopping and then stole wallets out of their purses. The thieves would then use the credit cards from the stolen wallets to purchase prepaid gift cards.

Police said the women were in possession of fake identifications from Puerto Rico and had numerous stolen credit cards on them at the time of their arrest along with cash and more than $85,000 in prepaid gift cards.

According to police, the women were also in possesion of stolen property relating to theft cases in Indiana, Tennessee and Oklahoma.

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.

“Generally they would know each other in Chile before they come up. Or if they are filling in for someone who has been arrested or has gone back home then they will get to know that group and they will operate cohesively.”

There are ways you can protect yourself.

“Glass break detector on sliding glass doors and windows. Dogs are great. They do not like dogs. They do not like audible alarms,” said Keenan.