HENDERSON, Ky (WEHT) – Evansville Police say they arrested three suspected members of a criminal group known to the FBI as the South American Theft Group on Thursday.

Evansville Police say members of the group have come to Evansville on a regular basis for more than two years. According to an affidavit, the group would have two to four individuals distract middle-aged women shopping at a retail store and then steal her wallet when she is not looking before driving to Sam’s Club to purchase thousands of dollars worth of gift cards and then leave before the crime can be reported.

On Thursday, an officer with EPD said he observed two females and one male exiting the Sam’s Club and walking to a car in the abandoned former IHOP parking lot on Burkhardt road. The officer said the group matched the patterns of the group observed in surveillance videos of SATG incidents over the past two years.

An officer pulled over the group for failing to signal a turn onto Virginia Street. Police say the driver was not able to provide identification, and all of the vehicle’s occupants were asked to exit the car. Police say one of the vehicle’s occupants gave permission for them to search the car. According to the probable cause affidavit, police found four American Express gift cards in the driver area and a large stack of unopened gift cards inside of a blue bag.

The three were placed in custody and identified as Katherinne Valeska Molina Castro, 28, Javiera Ignacia Cabello Solis, 21, and Nelson Andres Contereras, 38, all from Chile. Police say they found 92 gift cards totaling $17,000 in the vehicle and on the suspects. Police also say they located $3,308.48 in cash on one of the suspects.

All three suspects were charged with the following:

  • Theft over $750
  • Forgery
  • Fraud over $750
  • Conspiracy to commit crime

In addition to the above charges, Contereras was also charged with failure to signal.