COSTA MESA — Two armed bandits, one disguised by Halloween makeup, tied up four people in a jewelry store Wednesday and stole $350,000 in gems and cash.
The unidentified robbers escaped in a Mercedes-Benz taken from one of the victims during the robbery at the Lido Jewelry & Auction Co., Police Sgt. Gary McErlain said.
There were no injuries during the 11:25 a.m. robbery of the shop in the 1500 block of Mesa Verde Drive, McErlain said.
Norman Latva, 52, of Costa Mesa, a former store employee, said he was talking with owner Art Verdult and two associates when the two men suddenly charged through the front door.
"There were basically no customers inside the store," McErlain said.
Both men were wearing bandannas over their mouths, and each carried a .38 snub-nosed revolver, Latva said. One of the robbers wore white Halloween makeup on his face in addition to the bandanna, police and witnesses said.
"These two guys came in and held the guns up and said, 'Don't move. Don't say anything. Get into the back room,' " Latva said.
Latva said that as the men approached him menacingly, he stood frozen in the narrow passageway that connected the store's showroom and the rear office. One of the gunmen pointed a revolver directly in his face.
"I was damn scared all right," Latva said as he watched detectives dust the glass counters and doors for fingerprints inside the small store. "I could see all the bullets in the cylinder of the gun."
The bandits pulled out plastic handcuffs from their pockets, bound the four victims and gagged them with duct tape.
"At that point, everybody complied," Latva said.
The armed men then moved the victims into the back of the store. They stuck their weapons into Verdult's face and throat and ordered him to open two safes containing precious gems and cash.
After rifling the safes, they took the victims' personal jewelry and wallets, and returned to the front of the store, Latva said.
Taking a set of car keys belonging to Albert Withers, the pair fled from the store, jumped into the Mercedes-Benz and sped off.
Police said investigators found the car a short time later, abandoned in the back parking lot of a bank located a block from the jewelry store.