Deputies arrest two in necklace theft

Published February 17, 2007

TAMPA - Detectives say they found two of the men who stole a Sam's Club diamond necklace worth more than $263,000.

There's still no sign of the necklace, stolen Jan. 23 when thieves walked into the store during business hours, smashed a display case with a hammer and left with the jewelry.

Steven L. Lyles, 20, of 13605 Platte Creek Circle, Apt. 1, Tampa, and Douglas Guzman Jr., 24, of Miami were arrested Thursday evening on charges of grand theft, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Both were held without bail.

Detectives are searching for a third suspect, Derrick James Denson, 20, believed to be in Miami.

"We are optimistic these latest developments will result in the return of the stolen necklace to Sam's Club," said company spokeswoman Susan Koehler.

Deputies don't know why the men targeted the store.

"We never know motives," said sheriff's Maj. Louis Hollinshead.

The theft happened at 7 p.m. at a Sam's Club at Dale Mabry Highway and Northdale Boulevard. The men wandered around the store before they cracked open the case, grabbed the necklace and ran to the parking lot, deputies say. The men climbed into two cars and headed north on Dale Mabry Highway.

Deputies say they found the suspects through a tipster. They declined to talk about any specifics on the investigation, including whether the men gave any statements to detectives.

All three men have criminal records, state records show. Denson has been arrested three times by Miami-Dade police on charges of grand theft auto, hit and run and carjacking, records show.

Guzman has been arrested six times in South Florida. Among the charges: aggravated assault, larceny and driving with a suspended license, records show.

Lyles has two prior arrests on charges of obstruction and driving without a valid license, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The warehouse club chain - best known for offering bulk sales of toilet paper, condiments, office supplies and other household goods to members - might seem an odd choice for someone in the market for precious jewels.

But in recent years, the chain has started to offer big-ticket items, from $48,000 tours of New Zealand vineyards to a $198,000 Camaro to a $137,000 Orange County Choppers motorcycle.

Online, Sam's Club shoppers can order "dream jewelry," which includes a $333,000, 55-carat diamond heart-shaped necklace. The description promises the buyer will be "draped in diamonds."

In the fall the company offered "Once-in-a-Lifetime" packages. Among them: a $2.7-million Cessna Citation Mustang Jet; a $71,000 trip for four to the Super Bowl that included an invitation to Dan Marino's VIP party; and a backstage visit with Tony Bennett in London.

Anyone with any information on the missing necklace can call the Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-8477.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 226-3373 or vansickle@sptimes.com.