A stopover in Henderson led to the arrests of four South Carolina men Thursday wanted in connection with alleged jewelry heists in Louisiana.
The men – Thomas Riley, 71; Peter Mack, 34; Patrick Mack, 54; and Thomas Mack, 60 – were taken into custody on warrants of felony theft and criminal conspiracy issued from DeRidder, Louisiana. They face a collective bond of $1 million or $250,000 each.
The Hendersonian could not confirm if the three Macks are related. However, according to Henderson County Sheriff’s Detective Matt Brooks, the quartet is believed to be associated with a nomadic crime network known as the Irish Travelers.
“The Irish Travelers is a nickname for the group,” Brooks said. “They target older people.”
The Irish Travelers move in packs and present themselves as salesmen or laborers offering home renovations. The work and/or products used are shoddy, and not worth what the homeowner paid, subsequently costing the victim even more to fix, authorities said.
“Sometimes they manipulate their way into a house. And while one person distracts the homeowner, another member of the crew will sneak in and rob the homeowner. They’ll take all the jewelry, cash and pretty much whatever they can get,” Brooks said.
Most often, the homeowner won’t know of the theft until the group has left town, he added.
Police in Louisiana identified the alleged criminals as Irish Travelers to alert other law enforcement, which is exactly what happened, Brooks said.
On Thursday at about 3:30 p.m., instruments known as “flock cameras” signaled to area law enforcement that a brown Hyundai Santa Fe, entering Henderson from Evansville, was owned by someone wanted in Louisiana, Brooks said.
“Flock cameras are license plate readers, and they are all linked among law enforcement agencies,” he said. “I saw the hit on the license plate come through and that in the system they were Irish Travelers.”
Brooks said he contacted deputies Toni Hudspeth and Josh Hendrickson. Hudspeth was already located on the U.S. 41-strip and spotted the vehicle pulling into the Sugar Creek Inn, Brooks said.
Working in tandem, sheriff’s deputies and Henderson Police Department officers responded to the motel and stopped the vehicle.
“I thought we’d just get the registered owner of the vehicle, but it turned out to be four people total,” Brooks said.
Three men were in the vehicle. A fourth had gone inside the inn to reserve rooms, according to the sheriff’s detective.
After checking the identifications of the three in the vehicle, Brooks said it was confirmed that they were wanted by Louisiana authorities.
They were detained, while Brooks began searching for the fourth man, Patrick Mack, who was inside the motel.
Brooks confronted Mack as he was coming out of the bathroom. It was confirmed that Mack was also wanted by Louisiana authorities.
A search of the bathroom resulted in authorities locating a bag of jewelry which had been hidden in a trash can, Brooks said.
More jewelry was found in the pockets of the men, he said.
Brooks said the jewelry recovered was valued at more than $15,000.
“The DeRidder, Louisiana, police reported that roughly $10,000 in jewelry was stolen from a residence there,” he said. “Another $5,500 was stolen from a 91-year-old woman in Livingston Parish, Louisiana. The same four are suspects in both incidents.”
Riley and the Macks have been lodged at the Henderson County Detention Center.
“We believe if the vehicle hadn’t been spotted, the men would have gone unnoticed, and likely targeted the citizens of Henderson County,” Brooks said.
Authorities are urging people to be cautious when allowing strangers inside their homes.
“We encourage individuals to verify the identity and intentions of unfamiliar visitors before letting them in,” Brooks said.
For elderly residents, “Family members or neighbors can provide an extra layer of security and support for screening visitors and identifying potential risks,” he said.