Two men armed with a gun stole $2.5 million worth of jewels from a New York traveling jewelry salesman on Tuesday in a robbery at an airport in Columbia, S.C.
Investigators said the two thieves fit the description of robbers who have stalked and robbed hundreds of salespeople nationwide, reported The State newspaper.
Two or more men, usually Hispanic, target a traveling jewelry salesperson, investigators told the Columbia, S.C.-based newspaper. They follow the salesperson, sometimes across states, waiting for the opportunity to break into his or her car.
Tuesday’s attack happened in the car rental return lot at Columbia Metropolitan Airport. Investigators think the robbers may have followed the salesman from Augusta, Ga.
On Wednesday, airport Police Chief Randy Blackmon told the newspaper investigators were tracking a tip that a Chevrolet Nova seen in the lot at the time of the robbery was spotted on I-95 near Georgia.
Investigators also have not ruled out two Hispanic men who were stopped more than an hour after the robbery and questioned near the airport, Blackmon told the newspaper.
The men, who were wearing expensive jewelry, told investigators they were coming from New York to Atlanta and often drove that route, the report said.
The victim said one of the men looked like one of the robbers who took his jewelry, but he could not be sure, Blackmon said.
Experts say the people who usually hold up jewelry salespeople are skilled and careful.
“These subjects can be very patient and are very skilled at what they do,” John Walker, who is in charge of major crimes for the FBI told the newspaper. “They wait for the perfect opportunity to steal surreptitiously or they confront the individual by way of robbery. “They work in teams and are proficient at what they do.”
The jewelry salesman, whose name has not been released, was robbed at gunpoint at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday as he returned a rental car to Budget, officials told the newspaper.
The robbers, two men armed with a semiautomatic handgun, stole the man’s briefcase, brown and black bags, and his wristwatch, according to a report from the airport police department, the newspaper reported.
The black bag contained necklaces, bracelets and rings, some mounted with gemstones, according to the police report.
Since jewels don’t have serial numbers it’s difficult for investigators to track them and easy for the robbers to break them down or sell them to retailers, Walker said.