Hurricane provides cover for jewelry burglars

Officials in South Florida say three men and two teenage girls took advantage of Hurricane Frances to go on a crime spree that included the burglary of jewelry stores, according to media reports.

Investigators said the group cruised around Broward and Palm Beach counties in a stolen Saturn car and hit jewelry stores in as many as four cities. The five made off with more than $23,000 in merchandise.

Police say the alleged thieves, Hiram Griffin, 23, and Frederick Ross, 24, both of Davie, Fla.; Antoine Knowles, 21, of California; and two teenage girls, drove to Davie during the hurricane and invaded a mobile home that belonged to a couple in their 90s, the Miami Herald reports.

Knowles was the ringleader of the group, a police spokesman told the Herald. Police said they believe they burglarized jewelry stores in Boca Raton, Lake Worth and Fort Lauderdale. The police spokesman told the newspaper that members of the group confessed to breaking in to two jewelry stores in West Palm Beach.

The spree came to an end early Sunday, Sept. 5, when police spotted them trying to break into a tobacco shop in Davie. As the squad car approached, the five sped off. Then, all five jumped out and ran in different directions. All were quickly caught. The elderly couple whose home was invaded were not seriously hurt, police said.

Police reportedly recovered more than $23,000 in merchandise from the stolen Saturn, including jewelry boxes and Rolex watch parts.

Griffin, Ross, and Knowles were being held at the Broward County Jail as of Sept. 5, charged with burglary, possession of burglary tools and obstructing justice without violence, with bail set at $2,100 for each, according to jail records, the newspaper reports.

Ross reportedly has an extensive criminal history, including a conviction in 2001 on charges of robbery with a firearm, records show.

It was not known if charges had been filed against the two juvenile girls.