Most states take the crime of burglary seriously. In Fort Collins, Colorado, law enforcement were led to crack a larger case when burglaries seemed to be linked to race.
Deemed “Operation Daylight”, this investigation uncovered a string of burglary crimes that appeared to target Asian American business owners. When police dug deeper, they discovered a crime group with South American ties. It’s suspected they burglarized 26 families, amounting to $1.4 million in losses.
The syndicate initiated these crimes in the daylight by knocking first to ensure no one was home—then forcibly entering. Once inside, they took anything of apparent value: safes, jewelry, and cash.
The homes belonged to local Asian American business owners, adding an unexpected racial component.
What potential crimes do the busted perpetrators of Operation Daylight face? Many.
To start, here’s what you need to know about burglary under Colorado law. On top of that, how are actions of highly organized crime groups charged? Do separate charges result when crimes seem based on ethnicity or cultural background?
Burglary in Colorado
Colorado defines “burglary” as “entering someone’s residence knowingly and unlawfully remaining there or on their property with the intent to commit a crime”.
Three degrees of burglary exist.
First Degree Burglary
First-degree burglary involves:
- Unlawful entrance armed with explosives
- Threats with a deadly weapon
- Menacing or assaulting someone while on the property.
Second Degree Burglary
Second-degree burglary occurs when you enter a building or home, knowing it’s unoccupied. For instance, you might break into a home or remain there illegally with the intent to commit a crime. That crime could affect the property, like damage or vandalism, or it might affect a person on the property.
Third Degree Burglary
Third-degree burglary follows similar rules on different grounds. The perpetrator breaks into or trespasses a vending machine, money depository, coin box, vault, product dispenser, safe, cash register, or other type of equipment that contains valuables.
Penalties for Burglary
The penalties for burglary in Colorado depend on criminal circumstances and how it is charged. It’s a felony no matter the degree of burglary.
The penalties can range from one year in prison all the way up to 48 years. If convicted, the defendant can also face fines for as much as $1 million.
Other Crimes Associated with Operation Daylight
For those arrested through Operation Daylight, burglary isn’t the only criminal charge on the table. They may also face charges related to:
Colorado defines “criminal conspiracy” as “two or more people entering into an agreement for unlawful purposes and perpetrating at least one act in furtherance to the agreement”. In other words, two or more people agree to work together to carry out a crime.
Conspiracy can be charged and convicted even if the crime never reaches completion. The penalty aligns with the end goal of the conspiracy, i.e. conspiring to commit first degree murder evokes the same charges as first degree murder.
The Colorado Organized Crime Act prohibits certain criminal activities, including racketeering.
The doesn’t see “racketeering” as just one action. Instead, it constitutes a pattern of activity. That means participants engage in two or more racketeering activities in a 10-year period, such as:
- Computer crimes
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal extortion
- Aggravated vehicle theft
- Human trafficking
- Identity theft
- Money laundering
- Sexual exploitation of a child
- Criminal impersonation
- Possessing an illegal weapon
- Drug crimes
Colorado classifies racketeering as a Class 2 felony. It could result in prison time up to 24 years and $1 million fines. After release from prison, the convicted must follow a mandatory five-year period of parole.
Hate Crimes in CO
In general, “hate crimes” are motivated by the perceived membership of the victim to a certain group, usually based on race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identity, disability, religion, gender identity, age, or political affiliation.
Criminal acts motivated by such bias are seen as hate crimes in Colorado, too. They can be charged as either Class 1 misdemeanors or Class 5 or Class 4 felonies, depending on the crime circumstances.
Operation Daylight demonstrates something very important: some criminal cases hold graver implications than initial appearance. You never know what convictions lay beneath the surface of a seemingly uncomplicated crime.
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.