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S.F. Police Arrest Suspect in $6-Million Jewelry Heist

June 18, 2003|Lee Romney | Times Staff Writer

San Francisco police on Tuesday arrested a suspect in the city's record jewelry heist, which cleaned out a Union Square retailer of $6 million in handcrafted diamond rings, bracelets and brooches.

The arrest of George Turner, 43, at a San Francisco waterfront hotel is the biggest break yet in the robbery of Lang Antique & Estate Jewelry. Still being sought are brothers Dino Loren Smith, 44, and Troy Devin Smith, 40 -- known in San Francisco's Hall of Justice for their criminal antics and high-profile trials in the 1990s.

On the night of April 6, four men cut through the wall of an abandoned restaurant behind Lang. They disabled the alarm system. When employees arrived for work the next morning, the men forced them to open the safe, bound them, and left with garbage bags full of estate jewelry from the late 1800s through the 1940s.

Nine days later, police obtained arrest warrants for Turner and the Smiths. Bail on each warrant was set at $2 million. The fourth participant has not been identified. Turner is expected to be arraigned later this week.

Police say they recovered fingerprints at Lang and on a newspaper in the vacant Rumpus Restaurant that match those of Turner and Troy Smith, and a victim in the case identified Dino Smith as one of the gunmen in a photo lineup.

Lang owner Mark Zimmelman expressed surprise that Turner stuck so close to home.

"Bright guy," he quipped. "I figured they were out of the country, let alone out of town....This is the gang that couldn't shoot straight."

In 1990, the Smith brothers, armed with assault weapons, handcuffs and bulletproof vests, were arrested outside the home of a club owner known around town as "Dr. Winkie." They were charged with scheming to rob, kidnap and possibly kill the wealthy Winkie. A former girlfriend who had alerted police then implicated the brothers in a string of home-invasion robberies and commercial burglaries.

The brothers' convoluted legal odyssey made headlines. Jewels disappeared from a jury room and were never found. Twice, for unrelated reasons, appellate courts tossed out their convictions. In 1998, the Smiths walked free -- years before police and prosecutors believed they should have.

Turner had grown up around the brothers in San Francisco's tough Western Addition. He served state prison time between 1987 and 1992 for robbery, burglary and possession of a concealed weapon, state Department of Corrections records show.

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