/ Columbian jewel thief jailed

Charles Rodriguez

Charles Rodriguez

A Columbian jewellery thief who fled halfway round the world after stealing £80,000 worth of diamonds and pearls has finally been brought to justice.

Charles Rodriguez (born 29/11/1981) originally of America but with links to Columbia and London, pleaded guilty to robbery at an earlier hearing.

On 14 January 2013, he was jailed for five years and four months at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square.

Rodriguez - thought to be a member of the London-based South American organised crime group 'The Latin Kings' - was responsible for robbing a diamond trader on Singleton Road in Broughton Park, Salford, on 12 October 2011.

The man was returning from a sales trip in Manchester city centre and as he got out of his car, was thrown to the floor and attacked by two men. They stole the keys to his car and opened his boot, making off with two briefcases containing diamonds and pearls worth more than £80,000.

An investigation by the Salford Volume Crime Team was launched and after hours of trawling CCTV footage, identified the culprits who were carrying out reconnaissance of the trader on the day of the robbery and followed him from the city centre back to Salford.

Rodriguez was identified as one of the offenders, a Columbian-born member of 'The Latin Kings' who travelled extensively around the UK and Europe.

However, a painstaking analysis of telecommunications evidence and Rodriguez's use of social networking revealed he fled the UK and returned to Columbia about a month after the robbery.

He purchased two tickets for a TAM airlines flight to Rio de Janeiro on 10 November 2011 and left using a false passport in the name of 'Mr Chiguichon-Lopez'. Further telecommunications evidence showed he then moved onto Columbia. His Facebook account was littered with pictures of Rodriguez enjoying the sights of Rio before he finally returned home to Columbia.

As Columbia is a non-extradition country, officers had to wait until Rodriguez made a mistake, which he did on 4 December

2012. He was stopped by police driving suspiciously in London having come into the country on another false passport.

He gave a false name, but fingerprints revealed his true identity and he was arrested, charged and remanded in custody.

However, before his arrest he had again taken to Facebook to post pictures of himself Christmas shopping and sightseeing around the capital.

Detective Sergeant Roger Smethurst said: "Rodriguez's arrogance was astonishing. After committing an appalling attack on a jewellery trader, he fled the country to his native Columbia where he knew he could not be extradited.

"However, his lack of remorse was evident by the fact he brazenly posted sightseeing pictures from Brazil - at a time when he was on the run - on his Facebook page.

"Rodriguez must have thought he was above the law and untouchable because even when he finally returned to the UK, knowing he was still wanted, he still posted pictures of himself Christmas shopping in London on his Facebook page.

"But patience is a virtue and while Rodriguez thought he was living a carefree, jetset lifestyle, our officers were gathering overwhelming evidence against him so that when he finally did slip up, there was no escape.

"I would like to commend all those who worked on what was a complex and lengthy investigation, and just as importantly hope that this brings some sense of closure to the victim who has had to wait months and months to see his attacker brought to justice."

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