A recent string of burglaries targeting affluent neighborhoods in Southern California is being investigated as part of a sophisticated, international crime ring, Eyewitness News has learned.
One of the neighborhoods burglarized, in Anaheim Hills, sits behind a gate. During his workday on May 2, landscaper John Horner saw it turn into a hurdle.
"I saw one suspect who came running through the backyard and I was like, 'What the hell is that?'" said Horner. "And then two more came running out. I ran back there and they were going over the fence."
He called 911, expecting one law-enforcement agency to respond. He saw three -- the LAPD, Anaheim police and the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Anaheim police arrested and booked three suspects.
"As we investigate the case, or any crime really, including residential burglaries, we'll look at it as part of an ongoing trend," said Sgt. Jon McClintock of the Anaheim Police Department.
Eyewitness News has learned the suspects that Anaheim police arrested are also suspected of burglarizing two homes in the Hollywood Hills. Surveillance video shows three people walking out of a home with clothes, bags and other items.
ABC7 has also learned the suspects are part of an investigation into what law enforcement calls a transnational group, or an international crime ring.
Authorities have not confirmed where the three suspects are from.
The Orange County complaint charges Diego Rendichuuentecol, Miguel Fernando Marchantavila and Manuel Rodrigo Vengasburgos with two counts of burglary, possession of burglary tools, obstructing an officer and false representation. They've pleaded not guilty.
"I can't really speak on it at the moment," said the suspects' defense attorney after their initial hearing. "My clients are innocent. That's why they hired me -- to prove their innocence."
Eyewitness News asked Anaheim police how many other people may be criminally associated with the three suspects. McClintock did not provide a number, but said more people are involved than the three arrested.
Horner said he saw four people the day he called 911. Surveillance video wasn't helpful at that home.
"They had some sort of thing for cutting out cell phones and video on the house, on the security," said Horner.
Sophistication is among the aggravating factors in their complaint. Security expert Joe Petrillo has seen it all.
"They're very professional," said Petrillo, a retired sheriff's deputy and current president of SDS Alarms. "It's like everything else. If you're good at what you do, you're gonna be successful. And they're good at what they do."
The homes part of this investigation involve several cities in Southern California. In addition to Anaheim and Hollywood Hills, agencies are investigating burglaries in Yorba Linda, Palos Verdes, Manhattan Beach, Dana Point, Santa Clarita and Santa Monica, potentially all part of an organized crime ring.
Most homes are up against hillsides. The burglars often break glass to get in.
Petrillo points to certain devices that can alert a home security system when glass is broken. Some sense it while placed on the doors and windows, while others rely on a certain frequency.
"The low pitch is when a rock hits it or when a person hits it," said Petrillo. "The high pitch is the sound of breaking glass."
However, this technology is not perfect either, Petrillo said. He urges a multi-layered approach, with motion detection and low-tech protection such as film to prevent glass from shattering.