Police arrested the alleged mastermind in a string of brazen burglaries at J.C. Penney stores in three states, recovering an estimated $3 million to $4 million in stolen gold jewelry, watches and other merchandise.

This story first appeared in the September 14, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Hector Castillo of Houston, a convicted burglar, is suspected of masterminding the heists at Penney’s off-mall stores in Indianapolis in June and units in the Houston suburbs of Pasadena and Rosenberg in July, as well as stores in Lafayette and Covington, La., in August, authorities said.

The merchandise was found at his home and at two storage facilities, said Bud Corbett, chief of operations at the Pasadena Police Department.

“He has been convicted of burglary before, and taken a similar approach and method in the operation,” Corbett said.

The search for accomplices was continuing. Castillo was said to be cooperating in the investigation.

In each of the burglaries, thieves broke in through the roof. The most recent heists were filmed by surveillance cameras and showed a pair of masked, glove-wearing thieves who descended into the stores in Covington and Lafayette via ropes.

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