Police arrested three men from Chile on Friday in the quiet California suburban town of Irvine, just days after the Los Angeles Police Department formed a task force to address an international crime ring targeting luxury homes in the U.S. 

The arrests came after a recent spike in home robberies in Irvine, a relatively low crime area in Orange County that is about 40 miles south of Los Angeles

Irvine police officers had been conducting surveillance work when a “suspicious vehicle” near Boomer Canyon caught their attention. 

Police said there were three men inside the car who “were not from the area and appeared to have no reason to be in Irvine.”

The driver sped off when officers tried to stop them. Eventually, officers were able to stop the car and search inside. Officers found burglary tools, pet deterrent, shoe covers, and masks. 

“Based on the totality of circumstances, the trio appeared to be casing the area to commit residential burglaries and were arrested for conspiracy to commit burglary, providing false information to a police officer, and possession of burglary tools,” Irvine police said in a statement. 


Police identified the three men as Julio Cordova-Martinez, 55, Ricardo Navarete-Loyola, 19, and Leopoldo Jara-Araya, 57. All three of them were Chilean nationals and booked at the Orange County Jail (OCJ).

Their arrest comes amid a rise in transnational crime groups entering the U.S. by taking advantage of a State Department travel program to case out affluent U.S. neighborhoods and ransack homes for profit. 

Last week, the Los Angeles Police Department formed a task force to counter these groups. The majority of participants in these gangs are coming from Chile, but law enforcement has seen nationals from other South American countries, including Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. 

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer has been warning about this issue since at least summer, calling the burglaries “carefully calculated and planned.” 

Spitzer has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration for failing to respond to public records requests involving documentation on the issue. 

Irvine has seen an uptick in home burglaries, with more than 30 in as many days, though it is believed only around seven of these were related to transnational criminal gangs. 

The problem has not been confined to California either, as similar crimes have been reported in Michigan, New Jersey and New York, among other states. 

These crimes have been enabled thanks to Chile being part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows tourists and business travelers to enter America for 90 days or less without having to obtain a visa or go through a thorough vetting process.

Fox News Digital’s Mike Ruiz contributed to this report.