Millions of dollars in jewelry was stolen from an armored truck parked at a rest stop near Los Angeles, officials say
Stephanie Elam and Kacey Cherry, CNN
(CNN) — Gems and jewelry worth millions of dollars were stolen from an armored truck parked at a rest stop near Los Angeles, officials said, setting off a multi-agency investigation.
The heist unfolded between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. July 11 at a Flying J rest stop and gas station near Lebec, California, about 80 miles north of Los Angeles, the LA County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
A tractor trailer operated by Brinks was transporting the high-value items from a jewelry show in San Mateo to another show in Pasadena, according to Arnold Duke, head of the International Gem & Jewelry Show.
“I’ve been doing this professionally for 45 years and never have we had anything remotely close to this,” Duke told CNN.
Sixteen merchants were affected in the theft of 20 large footlockers that weigh about 100 pounds each, Duke said. The lockers held gemstones, Rolex watches and thousands of loose diamonds, some of which were priced close to $500,000 each wholesale. Some custom, one-of-a-kind finished pieces were also stolen from the truck, Duke added.
“The sheer quantity of gems and jewelry wouldn’t fit in one car,” Duke said. “It’s a staggering amount of jewelry and for it to be left alone is unconscionable.”
Some of the smaller merchants involved lost about $700,000 in merchandise, while larger corporations lost merchandise valued at up to $12 million, according to estimates from Duke.
But Brinks said the insurance numbers don’t indicate a loss nearly that high.
“According to the information the customers provided to us before they shipped their items, the total value of the missing items is less than $10 million. We are working with law enforcement and we will fully reimburse our customers for the value of their assets that were stolen, in accordance with the terms of our contract,” Brinks told CNN in a statement.
Duke said many jewelers don’t insure what they are shipping at full value as the cost of the insurance can be extremely high, and they rely on the safety precautions taken by Brinks trucks and their drivers.
“Many merchants know a lot of the drivers on a first name basis,” said Duke.
One merchant told CNN 30 years of his life’s work was stolen in the heist. He didn’t share his name nor the name of his businesses with CNN over concerns of being targeted again.
He expressed that he was “emotional” and “speechless” and wants “Brink’s to answer” to him after losing some collectables and unique pieces in the theft.
The FBI is assisting the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the ongoing criminal investigation into the theft. No suspects were identified as of Tuesday.
Duke said shared with federal authorities videotapes of people attending the jewelry shows in hopes of finding a lead on suspicious behavior. He noted that the Rolex watches and many of the diamonds have serial numbers that can make them readily traceable if found.