Suspected Jewel Thieves Doubled as Jewelers



On Sept. 6, Houston police arrested two suspects who may have been responsible for as many as 30 thefts from jewelers—and in a bizarre twist, they also owned a jewelry business.

According to a statement from the Houston Police Department, Jason Clay Kennedy and John Dewayne O’Brien have been charged with engaging in organized criminal activity in connection with the $6 million burglary of Dallas store Karat 22 on Feb. 5. Police suspect the pair and a third man may be responsible for dozens of thefts from jewelers in Texas, Oklahoma, and perhaps Florida, going as far back as 2000. 

Sgt. Peter Schneider, of the Houston Police Dept.’s major theft task force, tells JCK the suspects operated two gold buying and selling businesses in the Dallas area, and one in Fort Worth. That business, which he identified as New York Gold and Silver Exchange, is now closed, he says.

The trio allegedly “got into the gold business as kind of a front, so they could sell it to guys who smelt it,” he says.  “If you sell direct to the refiners, you get full value of the stuff, whereas, when you fence it, you only get 20 to 30 percent.” 

That also helped them learn about alarms, according to Sgt. Frank Quinn of the Houston Police Dept.’s major offenders division. 

“From what we learned, when they were getting their alarm installed, they asked a lot of questions,” Quinn says. 

In another ironic twist, Quinn says, at one point, one of the stores was burglarized, though he says police are still investigating that burglary. 

The Jewelers’ Security Alliance calls the suspected gang “high-tech” and “very good at breaking into jewelry stores.” Karat 22 owner Aku Patel told JCK earlier this year that he was stunned by the efficiency of the break-in.

“When the burglars cut through the hole in the roof, they disabled primary and secondary alarms within 35 seconds,” Patel said. “They then broke into the control room and pulled out the exact chip that disables the entire security system.” 

Patel said the robbers also disabled 32 security cameras in less than six minutes, destroyed the phone system, and cut Internet cables, depriving police of extensive break-in footage.

However, one video, from a neighboring store, may have made the difference. It showed two males dragging what appeared to be heavy objects from the area behind the jewelry store and into a truck. Further investigation identified the truck’s owner as Kennedy. 

The Houston Police Department and FBI joined forces and learned the suspects had purchased numerous luxury items, including a Cabin Cruiser, high-end Mercedes Benz, a Land Rover, and a $500,000 home.

“Most of their thefts were pretty successful, over a million dollars,” says Schneider. “Whether by luck or by skill, they did quite a few.”

Any jeweler who may have further information, or suspects they may have been victimized by this gang, should call the Houston FBI, 713-693-5000.

Police are asking for help in locating a third suspect, Kelvin O’Brien, who is believed to be in the Dallas area. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Kelvin Lynn O’Brien is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.  

JCK News Director