'Dinner-time burglaries': Arrests made in series of Scottsdale home invasions

Three people have been arrested in connection to the so-called "dinner-time burglaries" in Scottsdale, the police department announced on March 11.

These are the first arrests in Scottsdale related to the ongoing investigation into South American Theft Groups targeting high-end neighborhoods. Thefts have been reported in Phoenix and Paradise Valley as well.

Phoenix has had at least three arrests so far.

Over in Scottsdale, the three suspects were arrested Sunday night and into early Monday morning.

"During that time, patrol officers, detectives, police drones and police helicopters were searching the neighborhoods around Pima and Yearling Roads after being alerted to subjects being in the adjacent desert area," Scottsdale Police said.

The first arrest was 32-year-old Grecia Romanduski Gaete Castillo of Chile. She was found near Pima and Yearling roads around 8:40 p.m. on March 10. The second and third arrests came simultaneously, around 6:30 a.m. on March 11 near Pima and Jomax roads.

One of those suspects is a 17-year-old from Chile and the second is 23-year-old Sebastian Jesus Parraguez Soto of Chile.

Grecia Romanduski Gaete Castillo_Sebastian Jesus Parraguez Soto

Grecia Romanduski Gaete Castillo and Sebastian Jesus Parraguez Soto

Police say the suspects were not armed when they were arrested. The three are in police custody and are accused of conspiracy and burglary-related charges.

The car Castillo was driving was impounded as evidence, police say. Items from burglarized properties were allegedly found inside of it. 

"Scottsdale detectives are actively working on this case to determine if this group is connected with other cases in Scottsdale," police said.

‘I came here looking for tranquility and no crime’

Organized. Professional. Strategic. That’s how police describe the crime ring.

Police stress that this is not a group of amateurs, but rather, professionals from South America who are good at what they do.

Dwayne Staten, a Scottsdale resident, said, "I’m from Chicago, and that’s like a crime city. I came here looking for tranquility and no crime."

Tranquility isn’t what Staten and his dog Sammy have experienced so far after moving to Scottsdale.

The duo is on constant alert after the slew of break-ins near their area.

"I just bought this new alarm system, and I didn’t think I needed it. I’m at the top of the mountain, and there’s nothing behind me except the McDowell Mountain Hunting Range," he said.

Scottsdale Police Chief Jeff Walther detailed more on the trio's arrests on March 12 during a press conference.

"During questioning, again, not only did they admit to why they were here, they also admitted to the interstate component of that and that they were doing burglaries in the state of California," he said.

Police believe they are Chilean citizens.

"All three. All three came here legally on the visa waiver program," he said.

The chief stresses how widespread this issue is.

"It’s a big deal. It’s impacting Scottsdale, it’s impacting the Valley, it’s impacting the state, it’s impacting the country," he said.

Chief Walther thinks more suspects are out there.

"We have an older security system in our house and something like this makes you think about upgrading to something a little more robust," said Alex King, a Scottsdale resident.

Police say the group is targeting homes that back up to a wash or a golf course, breaking a window and going right for the primary bedroom and closet looking for valuables while people are out during the dinner-time hours.

They also believe the burglars are part of a South American organized crime group operating in the U.S. over the past two decades.

In at least one of these cases, someone was at home while the crooks broke in. There was no confrontation and the homeowner wasn't hurt.