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NEWPORT NEWS-- The leader of a violent and highly sophisticated jewelry theft ring pleaded guilty Friday to participating in a racketeering conspiracy.

According to court documents, 37-year-old Alexander Cuadros-Garcia of Richmond led an organized criminal group that stole more than $4.6 million in jewelry from victims in Virginia and at least six other states.

In March 2012, Cuadros-Garcia was charged along with seven other individuals who were members of the Richmond-based ring.

According to prosecutors, the suspects regularly conducted lengthy surveillance on jewelry stores to identify vulnerable individuals and then followed their targets back to their hotels or homes.

Prosecutors say in most of the robberies several men would suddenly appear as the victims approached or entered their car, punch out the car's windows, threaten the victims at knife-point and steal the victims' merchandise.

In addition, prosecutors say the robbers would puncture the victims' car tires and steal their cell phone to reduce the chance of pursuit or apprehension.

After a successful robbery, members of the ring would travel to New York to sell the stolen merchandise, where it resold or melted down.

Cuadros-Garcia faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for July 19.

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