A burglary ring used social media to track affluent residents around Houston in order to steal jewelry, guns and high-priced artwork, including a painting by the French impressionist Monet, from their homes, police said.
The stolen paintings alone are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Houston Major Offenders Unit Detective John Varela said at a press conference Wednesday.
At least seven suspects have been arrested in the heists that mainly hit homes in wealthy residential community of River Oaks, but also targeted houses in Brazoria, Fort Bend and Galveston counties.
“These guys took it to the next level,” Varela said. “They did research on particular houses and if somebody bragged about what somebody had in their house, they’d do research on that house.”
Varela did not comment on which media platforms were used, but said the suspects “without a doubt” used social media to identify whether or not a home could be robbed.
Specifically, the suspects would determine whether the residents were or were not going to be home, or if they were on vacation based on their postings, according to Varela.
He also mentioned that it was “very common” for some of the suspects to attend a house party after learning about it through social media and pose as a guest.
“Some of these suspects, this is their job. They look for an opportunity to commit crimes,” he said.
Those arrested were Gashara Bradshaw, who was charged with one count of burglary of a habitation; Nick Brown, who was charged with two counts of burglary of habitation and two counts of felony theft; Julian Franklin, who was charged with one count of burglary of a habitation and one count of felony theft; Nicholas Lawrence Johnson, who was charged with one count of burglary of habitation of one count of felony theft; Jasmine Maynes, who was charged with one count of possession of controlled substance and use of fraudulent ID; Andre Miles, who was charged with one count of burglary of a habitation and one count of felony theft; and Archie Thompkins, who was charged with one count of felony theft.
Houston police did not offer additional comment Thursday as to how many people were victimized. A spokesman only said there were “multiple.”
Tony Buzbee, a mayoral candidate for the city, said millions of dollars of art and jewelry were stolen from his home, according to the Associated Press. Buzbee did not immediately respond to ABC News for comment.
Police are still looking at other possible charges and suspects. They are offering a reward of up to $50,000 for anyone with information on the burglaries and location of some of the art pieces that have not yet been recovered.
Varela encouraged the public to limit posting personal information on social media accounts, lock doors and utilize alarms or surveillance systems if possible.