GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man accused of breaking into Asian households in Kent County was working with his cousin and the two are part of a larger ring, investigators say.
On Wednesday, Jhon Jairo Munoz-Lopera waived his rights to a preliminary examination as part of a deal with the prosecutor’s office. Prosecutors said they will drop the two home invasion charges against Munoz-Lopera if he pleads guilty to a criminal enterprises charge.
He has been linked to three home invasions in July 2020.
“It was a neighbor that happened to see there was a vehicle parked in the driveway and happened to see that the driver threw out a cigarette while they were watching them,” Kent County Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt said.
A probable cause affidavit revealed DNA collected from that cigarette butt led detectives to Munoz-Lopera and his cousin, Hallison Lopera Rodriquez.
“They are first cousins, and they are part of a group,” DeWitt said.
Detectives say the two suspects are part of a nationwide burglary ring that has broken in to at least seven other Asian households across the country. Court documents put the loss in cash, jewelry and other items at more than a million dollars.
“For whatever reason, they are targeting Asian business owners,” DeWitt said. “They would frequently surveil their intended target, identify patterns and then when given the opportunity, they would take advantage of it and break into their homes.”
Rodriquez is awaiting extradition to Michigan from a Virginia, where he’s in jail after being convicted last year of grand larceny, breaking and entering and being in possession of burglary tools.
“It absolutely is our belief that they are involved nationwide and that’s why it’s so critical for law enforcement to share information and to be proactive monitoring the types of crimes and patterns,” the undersheriff said.
Munoz-Lopera is being held on a $500,000 bond.