In what the Jewelers Security Alliance called “very significant arrests,” police this week nabbed two groups suspected of preying on jewelry salesmen and stores.
While the arrests and the alleged gangs appear unrelated, Jewelers Security Alliance president John Kennedy tells JCK both appear to be good news for the industry.
“These are both great cases, very important, and the result of tremendous work by law enforcement,” he says.
In the first case, seven alleged members of a jewelry theft ring were arrested March 21 on charges of being part of a group that stole more than $4.6 million worth of jewelry from traveling jewelry sales representatives. The ring is believed to be responsible for robberies in Virginia, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, and California.
Court documents allege the ring has ties to South American theft groups that specialize in accosting travelling jewelry salespeople.
According to the statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office, the alleged members of the Richmond, Va.-based ring would conduct lengthy surveillance on jewelry stores. In most of the robberies, several men would suddenly appear at a salesperson’s car, threaten him or her at knifepoint, and steal the merchandise. The thieves would then puncture the victims’ car tires and take their cell phone to reduce the chance of pursuit or apprehension. The group then sold the items to suspected fences in New York.
Despite these arrests, Kennedy noted that travelling salespeople must continue to take precautions.
“The idea is to think that you are being followed,” he says. “So use evasive driving techniques, take U turns, drive into convenience stores.”
In the second instance, Montclair, Calif., police arrested seven members of a suspected gang accused of a robbery at a local Ben Bridge Jeweler store on Feb. 23.
According to a police department press release, following the arrest, police determined similar robberies occurred previously in Nevada, including one at a Ben Bridge store in Henderson, Nev., on Feb. 12.
The police also unearthed evidence that indicated the group was allegedly conspiring to commit additional jewelry heists in California, including one at a Glendale Galleria and another jewelry store in San Francisco. The group allegedly sold 19 out of 23 Rolex watches stolen in Montclair to a Los Angeles jewelry broker.