‘Sophisticated’: Four men arrested after break-in string targeting South Asians in 25 Mass. towns

BOSTON — Four Rhode Island men have been arrested in connection with an organized theft ring that targeted people of South Asian descent in some of the most affluent communities in Massachusetts, authorities said Friday.

The four men, some of whom are related, are responsible for 43 burglaries totaling thefts of more than $4 million in valuables occurring across 25 towns in Massachusetts between 2018 and 2024, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan told reporters during a press conference on Friday morning.

Jovan Lemon, 29, of Providence, Rhode Island; Paul Lemon, 30, of Warwick, Rhode Island; Steven Berdugo, 28, of Providence, Rhode Island; and Paul Miller, 46, of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, who were arrested at their homes on Friday morning, are “connected to a gang based in Providence, Rhode Island and well-known to law enforcement agencies across Rhode Island,” Ryan said.

Paul Miller is the father of Jovan Lemon and Paul Lemon, who are brothers, Ryan said.

All four men were indicted by a Middlesex Grand Jury on April 18 for a total of 95 counts of unarmed burglary and breaking and entering a dwelling house in the daytime with intent to commit a felony, Ryan said.

Samir Desai is one of 43 Indian and South Asian families robbed in the large-scale crime ring.

“When we came back everything upstairs was topsy turvy,” said Deasi, whose home was broken into last July.

They robbed Samir and his wife last summer while the couple was on vacation stealing a precious diamond ring and a lot more.

“They went through every bedroom and got the most precious stuff they could find,” said Desai.

The crooks captured only once on surveillance carried shovels and a ladder to get into second-floor windows.

Desai says they took valuables attacking Indians and South Asians in particular.

“We lose the sense of belonging and safety and security. We should be pressing some kind of a hate crime on this,” he said. “My hope is that we continue our alertness, our vigilance so it doesn’t happen to us again.”

Desai and his wife did get their diamond back. He’s not sure he’ll get anything else.

“They were sophisticated both in avoiding cameras and other surveillance devices. We believe they were also using Wi-Fi jammers,” Ryan said. She added that the accused robbers did not use cell phones during the thefts.

“These individuals were also very disciplined in terms of there being essentially no cell phone use during the period of time when they were going to, executing and leaving the robberies that took place,” Ryan said.

The victims, who were not home at the time of the robberies, were “truly traumatized, and in some cases, really robbed of pieces of their heritage,” Ryan said.

The break-ins occurred in the communities of Billerica, Boxborough, Carlisle, Easton, Hopkinton, Lincoln, Weston, Sudbury, Andover, Bellingham, Boxford, Franklin, Hudson, Littleton, Medway, Middleton, Millis, North Attleboro, Norwell, Pembroke, Seekonk, Sharon, Southborough, Wenham, and Westwood between July 21, 2018 and March 30, 2024, Ryan said.

The targeted homes “were almost uniformly inhabited by families who were either Indian of South Asian heritage,” Ryan said.

The homes “were being targeted because of the victims’ cultural observances and heritages, those homes would have a lot of gems, they would have a lot of jewelry and a lot of cash,” Ryan said.

Property reported stolen in the breaks included many pieces of diamonds and other gems and studded jewelry with values of individual pieces up to approximately $75,000; gold bracelets, necklaces and earrings and large quantities of cash.

In many cases, the stolen property had been secured in locked safes, weighing up to 400 pounds, which thieves removed from the residence along with the stolen valuables, Ryan said.

“The defendants in this case were very sophisticated,” Ryan said. “They targeted victims based on their ethnicity and then gathered information about their targets in order to strike when families were not at home.

The thieves “were disciplined in concealing their identity, avoiding alarms and minimizing cell phone use before, during and after the breaks and using Wi-Fi jammers,” Ryan said. “Despite these challenges and the complicated nature and breadth of this investigation, law enforcement collaboratively and persistently worked to today begin the process of holding these four defendants accountable.”

Authorities decried the burglaries, saying the victims were targeted.

“The theft crew we arrested today stole countless items of great monetary, emotional, and cultural value from families in multiple states, and did so by violating the sanctity of their homes,” Massachusetts State Police Lt. Col. Mark Cyr said. “Such brazen criminal actions will not be tolerated in our communities.”

The arrests occurred following a nine-month investigation, officials said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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