Two on FBI terrorist watch list arrested after alleged Sacramento-area break-in attempt, chase

Two men on an FBI terrorist watch list were arrested last week on suspicion of attempting to break into a Granite Bay home before fleeing from law enforcement, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said.

Deputies responded to a residence in Granite Bay at 7:10 p.m. Nov. 10 after the homeowners spotted two masked men on their security cameras trying to force entry into the home. As units arrived, the two men fled in a black Mercedes SUV, traveling at high speeds in heavy traffic, the Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.

A law enforcement helicopter tracked the two men into Sacramento County. The men crashed into a sign in the area of Gerber and Power Inn roads in south Sacramento, disabling their vehicle, authorities said.

The men can be seen on helicopter infrared video posted by the Sheriff’s Office fleeing into a nearby neighborhood and hiding in separate backyards. Officers located the two men and took them into custody a short time later, sheriff’s officials said.

Placido Lopez-Vargas, 27, and Angel Emmanuel, 23, are being held in the Placer County Jail on suspicion of attempted burglary, felony evading and conspiracy.

Investigators later connected the two men to a “South American Theft Group,” or SATG, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said in the post.

Sgt. David Smith, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said criminals affiliated with this group use similar techniques, which is what tipped off investigators; they tend to target high-end jewelry and cash, things that can’t be tracked by serial numbers, he said.

“We’re not the only jurisdiction affected by this and we’re not the only state affected by this,” Smith added.

“Both individuals arrested this weekend were on an FBI terrorist watch list for being involved in transnational organized crime,” the Sheriff’s Office said in the social media post. “These apprehensions bring the total to five arrests of known transnational theft operations in Placer County over the past year.”

The Sheriff’s Office said it has had 20 reported burglaries and more than $1 million in stolen property in the last year believed to have been stolen by criminals affiliated with SATG.

Smith said investigators are also looking at past burglary cases to evaluate if they, too, might be associated with SATG activity.

Lopez-Vargas and Emmanuel pleaded not guilty during their arraignment Nov. 14 in Placer Superior Court, online court records show. They are due back in court Nov. 27 for a status conference.