Four charged in Indiana Helzberg Diamonds heist

Hobart, Ind., city detectives charged four Illinois men Thursday in connection with the October robberies of hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewels from Helzberg Diamonds in this northwest Indiana city.

The men are behind bars in Illinois jails awaiting extradition to Indiana, Hobart police told the Northwest Indiana Times. An account of the robbery can be found here.

Arrested were Rockford, Ill., residents Ralph L. Smith, 46, Matthew D. Taylor, 21, and Michael P. Taylor, 23. Robert A. DeSimone, 39, of Niles, Ill., also was arrested.

Police think the group pulled off the robbery about 10:15 p.m. Oct. 26 in the midst of morning traffic on U.S. 30, one of the busiest roadways in Northwest Indiana.

The four men face one felony count each of confinement and robbery with a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison if found guilty, the newspaper reports. The men are reportedly accused of stealing “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in jewelry from the store, according to an affidavit.

Police told the newspaper that the first break in the case came three weeks ago when someone from the area called with an anonymous tip after watching video of the robbery on a Chicago news program. The caller, who first inquired about whether a reward was available, said one of the men on the tape was DeSimone, police reportedly said.

Police reportedly launched an investigation into DeSimone and later learned from an FBI agent that a witness from a similar robbery at a jewelry store in Oakbrook, Ill., had identified DeSimone.

DeSimone reportedly admitted his involvement in the Helzberg Diamonds robbery when questioned in jail by Hobart detectives, according to an affidavit.

Police reportedly located Smith using a map drawn by DeSimone and found the white Ford pickup allegedly used as a second getaway vehicle sitting in his driveway, an affidavit states.

Police reportedly then tracked a license plate caught on surveillance tape to Smith’s home in Rockford and arrested him after he allegedly tried to flee out a back door. Detectives reportedly told neighboring residents to contact them with a license plate number if a Chevrolet Tahoe, used as another getaway car during the heist, was seen in the driveway, which did happen.

Police reportedly said they tracked the license plate to Matthew Taylor.

Matthew and Michael Taylor, who are brothers, were reportedly arrested and waived their rights, police said. Both have given statements admitting their role in the robbery, according to court documents filed Thursday, the newspaper reports.