Thieves in California stole millions of dollars worth of jewelry and gemstones after they broke into an unattended security vehicle as it returned from a jewelry show, police said.
The theft took place last week at a remote Southern California rest area, authorities said Monday, after the vehicle’s two armed guards drove away.
The tractor-trailer, which is owned by security company Brinks, had traveled overnight from a jewelry salon in the San Francisco Bay Area to the Los Angeles area for another event. According to Michael Mileski, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Sergeant, it was not immediately clear if the suspects had followed the vehicle throughout its 375-mile (604 km) journey or if they had come across it at the rest area. of rest in a crime of opportunity.
Guards reported the heist around 2 a.m. on July 11 after noticing the trailer lock had been tampered with, Mileski said. Investigators are trying to determine how the lock was broken.
It was not immediately clear how long guards left the vehicle unattended at the Flying J gas station and truck stop in the unincorporated community of Lebec, about 121 km north of downtown Los Angeles. .
The merchandise had been loaded into the truck late July 10 after an exhibition hosted by the International Gem and Jewelry Show in San Mateo, south of San Francisco, said group manager Brandy Swanson. He was heading to an event at the Pasadena Convention Center, just northeast of Los Angeles, she said.
While Swanson said 18 victims reported more than $100 million in losses, Brinks said the stolen items were worth less than $10 million.
“Based on information customers provided to us prior to shipping their items, the total value of missing items is less than $10 million,” Brinks said in a statement. “We are working with law enforcement and will fully reimburse our customers for the value of their assets that were stolen, in accordance with the terms of our contract.”
Brinks and representatives of the International Gem and Jewelry Show did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon.
Swanson said sellers who travel between jewelry shows typically underinsure their merchandise because they can’t afford to fully insure it.
“That’s where the gap comes in. They’re mom-and-pop operators,” Swanson said. “They are devastated. Some of these people have lost all their means of subsistence.
Mileski said detectives currently estimate the theft at $10 million, based on insurance, but they expect the amount to climb. Investigators are reviewing video footage from local businesses to see if the crime was recorded. The sergeant said several suspects allegedly carried out the heist.