Thieves Hit JCK Show

Thieves with Eastern European accents stole a diamond pendant worth $711,000 wholesale from a jewelry exhibitor at The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas on June 2, police told JCK magazine. The thieves are believed to be part of a ring that has stolen expensive jewelry in several U.S. cities. A man suspected of being involved was arrested by undercover police at the show later the same day.

In another, unrelated theft at the show, five large diamond watches with a total retail value of $30,600 were stolen from a watch exhibitor. A private security guard is being sought for questioning.

Anyone with information on either theft should contact Detective Sgt. Tim Shalhoob at the Tourist Security Division of the Las Vegas Police Department, (702) 229-3204.

Sources say the theft of the pendant, which had 52 cts. of diamonds, from Eclat Co., a New York jewelry company, occurred about 2:15 p.m. June 2. Three men and one woman, all well dressed and with allegedly Eastern European or Russian accents, came into the booth, which at the time was staffed by two sales clerks. One couple distracted the clerks in one corner with questions about jewelry, while the other quickly forced open a standing display case, which had no alarm, and took the pendant, said Shalhoob. The loss was discovered about 15 minutes after the four left the booth. The suspects, said police, included a thin white man in his early 30s, about 5 ft., 8 in. tall, with dark hair and a goatee; a female in her early 30s with blonde hair, wearing “trendy” black clothing; and a white male with gray hair and silver-framed eyeglasses.

Based on one of the clerks’ descriptions, a man named Juro Markelic, 46, who has identified himself variously as a Serbian and a Croat, was arrested later that day at the show in a dragnet by undercover police led by Detective Sgt. Priscilla Green. While Markelic wasn’t charged with the pendant theft, Shalhoob said he is believed to be connected to the thieves, and his hotel room was allegedly used by the suspects.

Markelic was charged, however, in connection with two other major 2002 diamond thefts committed by well-dressed thieves with Eastern European accents at Las Vegas hotel jewelry stores. One theft involved a $1 million diamond-and-platinum necklace taken from the Venetian Hotel in December; in the other incident, diamond jewelry retailing for at least $85,000 was taken from the Rio in March.

Shalhoob said police are awaiting further information about Markelic from Interpol.

Police and other sources say the thieves who took the pendant may be the same who committed jewelry thefts in the past year in California (in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area), Florida, and Denver, Colo.

“They only steal items worth $100,000 or more,” noted Shalhoob, adding that they may travel frequently between Europe and the United States. Markelic’s passport allegedly indicates he has made several such trips recently.

The watch theft occurred at the booth of ICE-Tek, a new watch company and first-time exhibitor at The JCK Show. Five large watches, with a retail value of $30,600, were taken between Friday evening and Saturday morning, when the theft was discovered. Police are looking for a booth guard who worked for the private security firm hired by the company. The guard failed to come to work that morning, says Shalhoob, and had checked out of his motel room. Though not charged, he is a suspect. The serial numbers of the watches, he said, are RD01-0259, RD01-0248, RD01-0116, 5TZ2-0001, and 5TZ2-0030.