Residents of South Asian descent targeted by burglars in East Lyme
East Lyme ― An anesthesiologist from one of the town’s upscale subdivisions wants to know if the burglary of his home last month is part of an organized crime ring targeting South Asian residents.
Sudhir Kadian, the director of interventional pain medicine at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, said he arrived at his Darrows Ridge home on a Friday night in October after dining out with his wife and children to find one bedroom window shattered and another ajar.
He called police to report the break-in before determining what, if anything, had been stolen. Officers accompanied him when he returned to the room to find one safe missing and one ransacked. Gone was cash and family heirlooms in the form of gold and diamond jewelry that he said was worth as much as “a small house.” He speculated the missing 100-pound safe was carried out the open window.
He said the emotional value of the items compounds the unspecified financial loss.
“I can’t regenerate my jewelry that my mother gave to my wife 27 years ago, or her mother gave to her,” he said.
Local police are also investigating the burglary of another household that occurred either the same day or the day before Kadian’s items were stolen. Police Chief Mike Finkelstein said the means of entry was the same in both cases.
The pattern in the East Lyme cases ― known in police parlance as the modus operandi or MO ― involved entry through the upper level while the residents of Indian descent were not home.
It is a cultural hallmark among Indians to pass down jewelry through the generations, according to Kadian. He suggested that’s what makes people of his ethnicity a target of organized crime activity.
Finkelstein said the cases are being treated as connected, though it's too early to tell if they might be related to South American crime rings that police departments across the country have said are targeting expensive homes and residences owned by South Asian Americans.
South Asia includes India as well as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Kadian said it appears the thief or thieves reached the second-floor window with a ladder to bypass the alarm system. The system was activated at the time of the burglary but did not include sensors on the second-floor windows.
The problem has been reported in numerous states including Massachusetts, where Weston Police Chief Denis Linehan took to social media to advise residents of the “ongoing situation” he described as a part of a nationwide trend. He said the common denominators are victims of South Asian descent and second-floor entry.
Kadian is calling on the FBI to treat the cases as a federal matter.
Finkelstein said his department is in contact with other agencies across the state to identify similar cases. Meanwhile, analysts at the Connecticut Intelligence Center, which includes representation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, are looking for patterns within the state and outside of it.
Kadian cited two Indian families in Avon who told him they lost large amounts of jewelry and cash in burglaries this year. It was similar to the burglary of his home, where thieves ignored other expensive items like perfume and watches.
Avon Police Chief Paul Melanson in a status update earlier this year attributed seven burglaries over two days in February to the South American Theft Group. He said the same crew was involved in burglaries across the Midwest and into northern Indiana.
The Avon burglaries were not limited to South Asian households.
Police in Avon and Simsbury arrested Crispulo Lizardo Olmos-Silva on multiple burglary charges in August following two break-ins there. Avon police at the time said the MO was similar to the previous spate of burglaries attributed to the South American crime ring. His court case is currently sealed.
The New Castle Police Department in Delaware this summer warned residents multiple burglaries had been carried out by members of theft groups typically made up of Chilean or Columbian nationals who are sometimes referred to as “crime tourists.” The burglaries targeted expensive homes and homes owned by Asian Americans.
The thieves go after jewelry, watches, designer merchandise, cash and gold bars, according to the New Castle news release. They use radios, disguises, lookouts, and surveillance to case out potential homes. They typically ship the stolen goods back to their home countries or attempt to sell them before leaving.
Kadian, who has been a doctor for 35 years, emphasized the importance of prevention when he emailed his neighbors at 3 a.m. the morning of the burglary to warn them. He suggested installing surveillance cameras, making sure alarm systems extend to all windows and getting insurance for valuables.
He said he’d been under the impression the jewelry was covered by his homeowner’s insurance until he found out that wasn’t the case.
“I got burglarized, then I got a shock from insurance,” he said.
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