A second man charged in $10 million jewelry heist

A second man charged with pulling off a $10 million jewelry heist in San Francisco admitted masterminding the caper to police but said it was an “inside job” organized by the store’s owner, a San Francisco police officer said in court testimony Wednesday.

At a preliminary hearing, Judge Ronni Maclaren found there was sufficient evidence to charge Dino Smith with 14 counts of robbery, conspiracy and kidnapping stemming from the April 6, 2003, gunpoint heist of Lang Antique & Estate Jewelry on Sutter Street, in the Union Square section of the city, the San Francisco Examiner reports.

Smith, whose brother and alleged co-conspirator Troy Smith is still at large, was arrested at a Queens, N.Y., train station last June. Another suspect, George Turner, was arrested at a motel in San Francisco’s Sunset District in 2003 with $650,000 worth of the jewels in his possession.

Prosecutors say the trio broke into the defunct Rumpus restaurant at 1 Tillman Place, cutting a hole through the wall into the abutting jewelry store at 343 Sutter St., the newspaper reports. After hiding until the staff opened the store the next morning, the crew allegedly held four employees at gunpoint, ordering them to open the safes and filling garbage bags with jewelry.

San Francisco Robbery Division Lt. Dan Leydon, who arrested Smith in New York, reportedly said the suspect admitted to having spent five months planning the job and claimed he had met repeatedly with store owner Mark Zimmelman to iron out the details.

Leydon told the newspaper that Zimmelman has taken a lie detector test but has not been charged with any crime.

Reached by telephone by the newspaper, Zimmelman called Smith’s allegations “absurd.”

Zimmelman reportedly said Smith may have been motivated by revenge. The jeweler testified against the Smiths more than a decade ago after selling gems the brothers had allegedly stole from the wife of a onetime Nicaraguan drug dealer in a home-invasion robbery. Zimmelman says he did not know the gems were stolen. The brothers’ conviction in that case was later overturned.

Jonathan M. Rutledge, attorney for Smith, reportedly denied that his client had ever confessed to anything.

The attorney said that, unlike Troy Smith and George Turner, Dino Smith’s fingerprints were not found at the scene, the newspaper reports. Lang salesman Richard Fry, the only eyewitness to identify Dino Smith, characterized him in testimony as “looking like 49ers receiver Jerry Rice.”