NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A Colombian man has pleaded guilty to having a role in a Richmond-based jewelry theft ring.

Thirty-seven-year-old Raul Antonio Escobar-Martinez made the plea Wednesday in federal court in Newport News. He was among seven people charged earlier this year after authorities said more than $4.6 million in merchandise was stolen from traveling salesmen in Virginia and several other states.

U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said the group was part of an international criminal organization that committed 17 robberies, primarily by attacking sales representatives and couriers after they had returned to their homes or hotel rooms.

He says vulnerable salesmen were targeted throughout Virginia as well as in New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland, California and Tennessee.

Escobar-Martinez faces up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing is set for Jan. 25.