Two charged in ‘wide-ranging burglary conspiracy’ in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire

Alleged crime spree touched Dracut, Tewksbury, Westford, Tyngsboro, Wilmington and Pelham, N.H.

A screencapture from a home surveillance video released by Pelham Police in late 2019 that shows two men breaking into a home on Longpond Drive in Pelham. A 15-month investigation launched as a result of this incident, and joined by over a dozen other local police departments, prosecutors, and federal agents, led to the arrest of two men in connection with what District Attorney Marian Ryan described as “a wide-ranging burglary conspiracy.” Courtesy Pelham, N.H. Police
A screencapture from a home surveillance video released by Pelham Police in late 2019 that shows two men breaking into a home on Longpond Drive in Pelham. A 15-month investigation launched as a result of this incident, and joined by over a dozen other local police departments, prosecutors, and federal agents, led to the arrest of two men in connection with what District Attorney Marian Ryan described as “a wide-ranging burglary conspiracy.” Courtesy Pelham, N.H. Police
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PELHAM, N.H. — Two men from Lawrence and Methuen were allegedly “the masterminds” behind burglaries in seven local communities and sold property stolen from several more in “a wide-ranging burglary conspiracy” that took over a year to bring down, according to Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and over a dozen local police departments who helped.

The indictment and Wednesday arrests of Gabriel Estuardo Rojas, 28, of Methuen, and Manuel Jose Lopez, 24, of Lawrence, were the result of a 15-month investigation conducted by police in two states, with assistance from State Police and federal authorities, Ryan announced in a joint press release with police on Wednesday evening. Both men are being held without bail.

The two are charged with committing burglaries or break-ins in Wilmington, Westford, Tewksbury, Natick, Waltham, Methuen and Andover, and of using a storage unit in Tyngsboro to store stolen items, including three motorcycles and over $5,000 in tools, according to a press release, which says some of the stolen property came from burglaries in Dracut, Pelham and Concord.

“This investigation was very lengthy, and a lot of effort, from multiple agencies was put in behind the scenes to solidify this case,” Pelham Police said in a press release. “That included multiple search warrants that were written and executed over the course of the past year as well as surveillance on the suspects involved.”

The investigation began on Dec. 12, 2019, in Pelham, where “at approximately 2:47 p.m. the Pelham Police Department received a report of two males dressed in all black running from the rear of a residence on Long Pond Drive (and) running into Veteran’s Memorial Park. Upon arrival officers discovered the rear slider had been smashed,” Pelham Police said in a press release at the time. A Salem, N.H., Police K9 tracked the suspects through Veteran’s Memorial Park, where it was believed they were picked up by a vehicle.

Pelham Police released a video of the burglary captured by a home surveillance camera, and blurry still photographs of the two suspects created from the video.

Screencaptures created by Pelham Police showing two suspects in a Dec. 12, 2019 burglary in Pelham that launched a 15-month investigation into a “wide-ranging burglary conspiracy” in both Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, police and prosecutors announced Wednesday as two men were arrested in connection with crimes in nearly a dozen communities. Photos courtesy Pelham Police

On Wednesday, more than a year later, Pelham Police revealed the results of their use of social media to ask for the public’s help with identifying the men.

“This video footage led detectives to a number of leads which uncovered a region-wide criminal operation,” Pelham Police said in a press release. “The suspects involved were believed to be committing similar crimes in the surrounding region.”

The investigation involved Massachusetts State Police, 20 local police departments in two states, and two federal agencies. Ryan said in a press release that detectives working the investigation used surveillance videos and records to link Rojas and Lopez to several other burglaries and break-ins, and then got search warrants for the suspects’ homes and cellphones.

“A search of their cellphones pursuant to a search warrant allowed the detectives to identify messages between the defendants and others allegedly related to a wide-ranging burglary conspiracy,” police and prosecutors wrote in a joint press release. “Investigators obtained search warrants issued by the Superior Court to analyze the location data for the defendants’ cell phones. This established that one or both of the defendants’ cellphones communicated with cell towers close to the breaks at the time they are believed to have occurred, often traveling from the areas where the defendants lived to the sites of the breaks, and elsewhere from there.”

On May 21, Rojas was arrested by Nashua, N.H., Police with a stolen motorcycle, and following that arrest investigators identified a self-storage unit in Tyngsboro that was rented by Rojas, according to a press release. Investigators got a warrant and searched the self-storage unit on July 16, finding property owned by Rojas and Lopez, along with three motorcycles that had been stolen in the months earlier, about $5,000 worth of stolen Snap-On brand tools, and other stolen property, according to a press release.

Rojas and Lopez were directly indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury on five counts of unarmed burglary, three counts of receiving stolen property, two counts of possession of burglarious tools, breaking and entering a dwelling house in the daytime with intent to commit a felony, breaking and entering a vehicle at night, and conspiracy to commit unarmed burglary, according to a press release. Both men are also facing a fugitive from justice charge in Massachusetts since Pelham Police have felony arrest warrants charging each man with burglary and criminal mischief in New Hampshire as well.

Both men were arrested at their homes early Wednesday morning without incident, according to police. They were arraigned in Woburn District Court, where Judge Shannon Frison ordered both men held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing on Monday.

Police that assisted the investigation include the New Hampshire departments from Pelham, Salem, Nashua, Windham and Londonderry, and Massachusetts departments from Tewksbury, Chelmsford, Tyngsboro, Dracut, Westford, Wilmington, Concord, Natick, Methuen, Haverhill, Andover, Lawrence, Waltham, Needham, Dedham, Massachusetts State Police from the Special Investigation Division and troopers assigned to the DA’s office, along with the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.