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12/10/2010

3 plead guilty to federal conspiracy charges in commercial burglary ring

PENSACOLA, Fla. - Jorge Alberto Ortega Calderon, 31, of Destin, Fla., Rene Ortega Calderon, 29, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and Francisco Javier Guillin-Bonilla, 37, of Fort Walton Beach, plead guilty this week in federal court to conspiring to transport stolen property in interstate commerce, following a multi-agency investigation that included special agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

All admitted that between August 2009 and February 2010, they participated in a conspiracy to burglarize businesses in Tallahassee, Panama City Beach, Okaloosa County, and Walton County, Fla., stealing construction and lawn maintenance equipment, tools and other items. The group concealed the stolen property in storage units rented by Jorge Alberto Ortega Calderon, and later used covered trucks to transport the property to locations outside the state of Florida.

The total loss to victims of the crime is estimated at $400,000. Some items stolen during the burglaries were recovered at a residence shared by the three men in Fort Walton Beach.

During one burglary in Fort Walton Beach, two members of the group obtained a firearm from inside the business. When the business's owner responded to a silent alarm, one of the burglars pointed the firearm at the owner, so the others could flee the scene and avoid capture.

On Feb. 12, Jorge Alberto Ortega Calderon and Francisco Javier Guillin-Bonilla were arrested in Mobile, Ala., attempting to commit another burglary at a commercial equipment rental company. Rene Ortega Calderon was also present at the scene of the attempted burglary, but fled on foot. He was later arrested.

The three men are scheduled to be sentenced in February 2011 by U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers. The men face up to five years' imprisonment for conspiracy and up to ten years' imprisonment for transportation of stolen property.

Guillin-Bonilla is also charged with knowingly possessing or using a fraudulent resident alien card for entry into, or as evidence of authorized stay or employment in the United States. Guillin-Bonilla pled guilty to this charge, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years' imprisonment.

U.S. Attorney Pamela C. Marsh applauded the work of all agencies involved in this case and described it as a prime example of multiple agencies working together to accomplish a single goal - justice for victims. Had it not been for the hard work of all the law enforcement officers, investigators, and analytical support staff involved from the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, the Walton County Sheriff's Office, the Leon County Sheriff's Office, the Tallahassee Police Department, the Panama City Beach Police Department, the Bay County Sheriff's Office, ICE HSI, the Mobile, Alabama Police Department, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, this case may very well have gone unsolved and the burglaries would have continued.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany H. Eggers.