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Masterly Jewel Heist Is Caught on Tape

September 20, 2006|Garrett Therolf | Times Staff Writer

Three men walked into a Laguna Hills store and stole nearly half a million dollars in diamond jewelry, working so smoothly that it took employees 45 minutes to realize they had been robbed.

The heist at Kevin Jewelers in the Laguna Hills Mall that was caught by the store's video camera Friday unfolded like a choreographed movie scene.

"They had to case the store and rehearse this in order to execute it so well, but it's not the perfect crime, because we have some very good videotape," said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.

The video shows two thieves taking positions at separate counters near the front of the store, talking with two salespeople about the jewelry.

A third man, heavyset and dressed in a dark suit and tie, walks past them to a jewelry case in the back of the store. He looks back to make sure no one is watching. He quietly opens a gate, walks behind the counter and crouches. He pulls out a key and opens the case, scooping out 48 engagement rings and two diamonds into his pockets, according to Amormino. He peeks over the counter every few seconds to make sure no one is watching.

In the midst of the crime, a woman enters the store and heads in the direction of the crouching man, oblivious to what is going on.

One of the thieves acts quickly and asks the woman's opinion of a ring he is admiring. Crisis averted.

Meanwhile, the man in the suit, still crouched down, locks the case and casually walks out of the store, slightly more than four minutes after he walked in.

Amormino said investigators believed the three men stole goods from another Kevin Jewelers in the Tyler Mall in Riverside on Sept. 9.

The keys, he said, were believed to be a master set that recently went missing from a store in Victorville; no one had changed the locks.

garrett.therolf@latimes.com

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