An international organized crime operation in East Texas, linked to coin operated machines?
2 Russian nationals are jailed, arrested with thousands of dollars in change, and now it's believed a nationwide criminal operation has been uncovered. KLTV 7's Bob Hallmark has more on our international burglars, and the East Texans who stopped them in their tracks.
"When I got here, everybody was screaming, they were trying tell me what was going on, these guys were begging me not to ruin their life," said Cara May, the assistant apartment manager at Misty Ridge.
Workers at Misty Ridge knew something wasn't right when they walked up to their laundromat and saw two men emptying out coin boxes.
"I did see the guy that had a bag on the actual machine and he started zipping it up," said May.
This group would not let the two men leave.
"So, I just blocked the door to their car and every time they would go to another door, I'd just block them again," said William Joyce, an apartment painter.
"I stepped in and told them to get against the wall and stay against the wall," said Paul Barron, an apartment maintanence worker. "I told him if he didn't back up, I was going to put him down."
When police arrived, they arrested 24 year old Ivelin Ivanov and his 33 year old brother Plamen Ivanov on organized crime charges. Their target was a bit unorthodox and and unexpected - coin operated machines such as washers and dryers. It was a professional operation and judging from what police found, they made a small fortune at it. A search of their car found nearly $4,000 worth of coins, as well as receipts indicating thousands of dollars sent back to Russia and a GPS programmed for area apartment sections.
"We didn't just catch some guys breaking into coin machines, and have a few dollars worth of coins on them. They had a large amount of money on them," said Sergeant Ben Kemper with Longview Police.
"I can't believe that. I'm just in awe of that."
The men are believed to be responsible for burglaries in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and even crimes in Florida and California.
"I didn't know the magnitude of what was going on. I knew that they had gotten a lot of money from us," said Carilyn Scott, the Misty Ridge property manager.
But thanks to these folks, this one in Longview is the last one.
"It's a great pleasure to stop people like this," said Paul.
The FBI and immigration agents are investigating into how long the operation has been going on, and who the organizers are. They are also investigating how the men were changing the money to send back to Russia. The two men are also suspected in numerous area burglaries.