Two men accused of stealing laptop computers and other electronic devices from rental cars in Loudoun County are being investigated for similar crimes across Northern Virginia and in at least three other states, sheriff's officials announced this week.

Miguel Delacalle, 41, and Alex Balvontin, 56, both of no fixed address, were arrested May 6 in a Sterling parking lot. Two investigators conducting a stakeout from the Red Lobster restaurant noticed the pair tampering with a car, sheriff's officials said.

Loudoun Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson said that Fairfax County police were investigating connections to a rash of similar crimes and that authorities in Missouri and Florida also were looking for possible links to unsolved cases. In addition, Simpson said, California authorities were conducting an investigation involving the men, who, when they were arrested, were carrying a laptop that had been stolen weeks earlier from a car in San Jose.

"There are indications that these two men were not only active locally and regionally but nationally as well," Simpson said at a news conference Monday at Dulles Town Center mall. He said investigators were working to determine what happened to the stolen items.

Both men have been charged in Loudoun with grand larceny with intent to sell, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, possession of burglary tools, possession of stolen property, forgery of public records and vehicle tampering, but they have not been charged in any other jurisdiction. They were being held without bond at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center in Leesburg.

Simpson said the string of thefts from rental cars in Loudoun began in November 2002 and then dropped off. Similar crimes were reported in May and November 2003 and then early this year, he said. Most of the crimes occurred near Dulles Town Center and along Waterview Plaza, authorities said.

In most cases, the thieves struck in the evening, targeting rental cars parked in restaurant lots, sheriff's officials said. They used a tool to punch out the lock of the driver's side door and to gain access to the car and its trunk. Simpson said 34 vehicles were targeted in the county, and officials estimate the cost of the damage and stolen items at more than $89,500.

In December, investigators began conducting stakeouts to catch the thieves. Sheriff's deputies worked about 1,000 hours of overtime on the case and were placed in restaurants, on the roof of the mall and in hotel rooms to watch for suspicious activity in the parking lots, Simpson said.

On May 6, Simpson said, Loudoun investigators learned from Fairfax authorities that thefts from rental cars had been reported there the night before. So that evening, Simpson said, Loudoun deputies set up watch, and two investigators ended up arresting Delacalle and Balvontin. At the time of the arrest, Balvontin gave the false name of Victor Serrallez, authorities said.

According to documents filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court, where police searched a home of one of the men's relatives in connection with the case, the men had a T-shaped metal tool that could be used to force open locked cars.

Delacalle told investigators that he had stolen items from cars and that he had committed similar crimes in California and Maryland, the documents state. He also told police that the laptops had been sold to "an unidentified person in New York City." According to the documents, both men were carrying several forms of fake identification.

Simpson credited several area businesses, including Dulles Town Center, Red Lobster, TGI Friday's, VeriSign Inc., Hertz Corp., Extended Stay America and the Olive Garden, for allowing the Sheriff's Office to use their businesses while conducting the stakeouts.