This story has been updated from its original version
Law enforcement officers in Texas arrested a man after a traffic stop over the weekend who had previously been linked by DNA to a 2011 heist and shootout outside a Naples jewelry store.
Jose Cabezudo-Gomez was one of at least five men associated with the armed robbery outside Thalheimer's Jewelers in Naples, authorities said. He was also linked to an armed robbery of a jewelry salesman in Palo Alto, Calif., and a parole violation out of Georgia stemming from another armed robbery.
"I knew all along at some point one of the guys is going to make a mistake and get caught," said Sandy Thalheimer, owner of the Naples store. "Once they get one of them, it sort of opens the door for more."
The robbery took place on Feb. 8, 2011. The robbers held up a jewelry salesman at gunpoint as he opened the trunk of his vehicle.
Thalheimer was driving his pick-up when he saw the masked men speed through his store's parking lot in a black Ford Taurus. He rammed his vehicle into the Ford's side door, and exchanged fire with the robbers, who fled in another waiting vehicle.
The suspects fled with about $279,000 worth of jewelry, officials said.
Naples detectives retrieved DNA and fingerprint evidence from that getaway car and issue arrest warrants.
"These groups of Colombian theft rings, they know each other for a month, two months, and then they go there separate ways," said Naples Detective Robert Young, who has been working the case. "There is not set pattern based on long-term friendships."
Officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety arrested Cabezudo-Gomez on Saturday night after witnessing two vehicles traveling at high rates of speed following each other closely in Carson County, according to a news release. The officer attempted to stop both vehicles, but reports said Cabezudo-Gomez's car braked abruptly, almost causing a crash. The second car sped away.
Cabezudo-Gomez identified himself as Marco Raul Fuertes-Olmedo and gave officers a Mexican driver license that did not include an address, reports said. Suspicious, the officer asked for additional information and requested to search the car, which was rented out of California.
During the search, officers discovered small amounts of marijuana and a pistol with the serial number scratched off behind the driver's side dashboard, reports said. After removing the dashboard, the officers reported finding many small packages of jewelry.
Officers arrested Cabezudo-Gomez under his alias. They learned of his long rap sheet of violent felonies and a long list of aliases after running his fingerprints through a database.
Young said its unclear what the suspect's real name is, but Jose Cabezudo-Gomez is the name attached to the DNA associated with his stint in Georgia prison.
"I guess we got really lucky," Young said. "We may not have gotten all five of them, but to know that at least one of our warrants led to the arrest of one of the individuals is rewarding."
Robert Taylor, director of operations for the South American Theft Group Intelligence Network, said Cabezudo-Gomez is part of an organized crime-ring based south of the border. The group, he said, is extremely violent, robbing jewelry salesmen and banks and committing crimes across the country and in Canada.
"They were prepared for the salesman to react to the crime," Taylor said. "They were not prepared for the owner of the store to react."
Just because police arrested Cabezudo-Gomez, it doesn't mean it will lead to more arrests, said Taylor, who has trained many local law enforcement officers on tracking and apprehending South American theft groups members.
"It's possible, but a lot of the time they don't cooperate, don't talk and won't rat out their partners," Taylor said. "They're very tight-lipped most of the time since they're tied to a bunch of these types of crimes."
Cabezudo-Gomez is also facing charges in Texas. It's unclear when he will be brought back to Collier County to face charges.