£80,000 diamond thief jailed after global hunt

Colombian gang member’s driving slip lands him in jail for five years.

A man has been jailed for five years after stealing £80,000 of diamonds from a Salford-based stone dealer before fleeing to the other side of the world.

Thief Charles Rodriguez, believed to be part of a London-based South American organised crime gang called The Latin Kings, pleaded guilty to the diamond robbery at Manchester Crown Court yesterday. He was sentenced to five years in jail for robbing a diamond trader in Salford in October 2011.

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Rodriguez and another man attacked a stone dealer as he returned from a sales trip in Manchester city centre. He was thrown to the floor as he got out of his car, with the two men taking his keys and fleeing with two briefcases stored the boot of the car, which contained diamonds and pearls worth £80,000.

Salford Volume Crime Team launched an investigation, studying CCTV footage from the day of the robbery, in which Rodriguez and his accomplice were spotted carrying out a reconnaissance of the diamond dealer.

A study of Rodriguez’s mobile phone of social networking use revealed that he fled the UK about a month after the robbery, using a false passport in the name of Mr Chiguichon-Lopez.

A trail of photographs on Facebook showed that he had flown to Rio before moving on to Colombia. Police officers said that owing to Colombia’s non-extradition laws they had to wait for Rodriguez to “make a mistake” before being able to arrest him.

Some time later he was stopped by police in London for driving suspiciously. He was found to have entered the country on a second false passport after his fingerprints revealed his true identity.

Detective Sergeant Roger Smethurst of Salford Volume Crime Team said: "Rodriguez’s arrogance was astonishing. After committing an appalling attack on a jewellery trader, he fled the country to his native Colombia where he knew he could not be extradited.

"However, his lack of remorse was evident by the fact he brazenly posted sightseeing pictures from Brazil – at a time when he was on the run – on his Facebook page. Rodriguez must have thought he was above the law and untouchable because even when he finally returned to the UK, knowing he was still wanted, he still posted pictures of himself Christmas shopping in London on his Facebook page.”

Smethurst said he hoped the jailing of Rodriguez would bring “some sense of closure” to the diamond dealer victim.



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