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Burglary gang used social media to find houses with high-end art to steal

(CNN)A group of criminals used social media to stake out burglary targets in upscale Houston neighborhoods. Their take included artwork worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, police said.

Seven people have been arrested in connection with the thefts, Detective John Varela of the Houston Police Department said.

Varela said the criminals would search social media for posts that indicated when the wealthy owners would be at work or on vacation. The thieves would also sometimes see a post about an upcoming party and go to the event to case the house, he said.

“If someone bragged about what they had in their house, (the criminals) would do research on that house and they would target that particular house. They might go by the house several times before (the burglary),” he said.

A painting by French impressionist Claude Monet was recovered by police.

The seven people arrested had different roles in the ring, he said. Some were burglars, some were fences, and some would store the stolen goods, which also included jewelry, guns and computers.

Some of the artwork has been recovered and police are asking for the public’s help in finding the rest. Varela said the case got a break when someone recognized the high-end art in a suspicious situation and called authorities.

Several of the defendants are due in court this week and some are still in jail, online Harris County records show.

CNN’s Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

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