Arrests made in Roswell home invasion

Police are investigating whether several men arrested Thursday in connection with two metro Atlanta home invasions are responsible for a spate of other thefts targeting Asian Indian families for their gold jewelry.

The thieves' last strike came Wednesday evening at a house on Windsor Wood Drive in Roswell. On Tuesday, a similar heist was conducted at a house on Collins Lake Way in Mableton, Cobb police said. Both homes were occupied by Asian Indian families.

With the price of gold hitting an all-time high this year, police believe that a group of thieves are zeroing in on Asian Indians. It is customary for Asian Indian families to possess gold jewelry, which is often handed down from generation to generation or purchased for gifts.

Since the start of this year, Asian Indian residents have reported two home-invasion robberies and several burglaries in Alpharetta, a dozen burglaries and five robberies in Cobb County and Marietta, a dozen burglaries in Johns Creek and four burglaries in Gwinnett County.

The suspects in this week's home invasions have hired attorneys and aren't cooperating with police, said Roswell Police spokesman Lt. James McGee.

"We don't know if it is isolated or it's a pattern yet," McGee said.

On Friday police released the names of the seven men who were arrested. (Initial reports said eight men had been arrested.)

They are Manuel Angel Garcia-Gome, 25; Victor Hugo Preciado-Montano, 27; Angel Manuel Soto-Serrano, 32; Joel Fontanez-Martinez, 33; Hector Jesus Claudio-Martinez, 28; Jamie Ruben Gutirrez-Perez, 21; and Brayan Estiven Preciado-Mosquera.

Dhiraj Sharma said that five men came into his Roswell home Wednesday wielding guns and used an electrical cord to tie him up. They bypassed electronics equipment, but pocketed a gold and diamond pendant along with a few other gold jewelry pieces belonging to his wife.

"It was very scary and nothing like that has ever happened to me in my life," Sharma said. "I'm amazed that could happen to me in Roswell, Georgia, of all places."

Sharma's wife, 20-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son returned from a trip to the grocery store during the robbery, surprising the intruders. The men grabbed Sharma's daughter as they rushed out the door, tearing her clothing. They also pointed a gun at Sharma's wife and pushed her down the stairs.

Sharma said his wife is bruised but otherwise unhurt. He is thankful that no one was shot and police officers swiftly nabbed the robbers.

"They had their dogs out there last night and we could hear choppers also," Sharma said. "They were – we're not trained in policing -- but it looked like they were completely on top of their game."

Cobb Police have said earlier robberies and burglaries may have been the work of Colombian gang members. However, Cobb Police spokesman Mike Bowman said Thursday that it was unclear if the eight suspects arrested Thursday were part of a Colombian gang.

Burglaries and robberies targeting Asian Indians have been reported in northern Virginia, central Illinois, Houston and St. Paul, Minn., as well as in the United Kingdom.

There are about 96,000 Asian Indians living in Georgia, comprising about 1 percent of the state's population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

A citizens watchdog group called Eye On Crime has been organized in response to the robberies and hundreds of people have packed recent meetings in Marietta.

Chand Akkenini, one of the Eye On Crime organizers, was pleased by the arrests but feared other copycat thieves may still be on the prowl.

"It's good news at least that law enforcement people are very responsive," Akkenini said. "And people in the community, not only Asian but others, are paying attention."