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Thieves hit two jewelry stores

By JONATHAN ABEL
Published April 19, 2007


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Two men in hoods spent a minute in each of two jewelry stores, not buying, but stealing thousands of dollars worth of jewelry.

They broke in while the stores were closed, raked display cases and fled with black bags of loot.

The first heist took place at 4:30 a.m. March 26 at Riches and Gems at 30127 U.S. 19 N, just north of Curlew Road, in Palm Harbor. The other was at 7:30 a.m. April 8 at Gold & Diamond Source at 3800 Ulmerton Road near the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

On Wednesday, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office released surveillance videos of the burglaries and asked the public for help in identifying the burglars.

In both cases, a gray 2007 Nissan Altima backed into an empty space in front of the store. The burglars lingered inside the car, then rushed the door.

At one store, they used a hammer to crack the door and then unlock it. At the other they bashed their way through the door's glass pane.

Wearing hoods and dark clothes, the men raked the display cabinets and left as quickly as they had come.

Authorities have not released the total value of the stolen goods and have asked store officials not to give a total for the amount of their loss.

At Riches and Gems, the burglars caused more damage to the store than they took away in jewelry, said owner Richard Baker. For the most part, they made off with estate jewelry, which he described as the "low end" of his inventory.

At Gold and Diamond Source, the duo took "thousands" of dollars worth of jewelry, said operations manager Lynn Canavan. She said the burglars took largely gold from the five display cases they hit. The loot included coin jewelry, onyx rings, speciality watches and gold necklaces, including one 18-inch gold choker that looks like a Slinky.

In 2001, an armed robbery at the same Gold & Diamond Source store netted $1.4-million in jewelry. Two men smashed display cases while a third put a gun to the head of the clerk. A fourth man waited in a getaway car. An investigation led to five men being charged with selling or buying jewels from that robbery.

No one was injured in the 2001 robbery, but store employees were terrified.

"The good thing," Canavan said about this burglary, "is that it happened when no one was here."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com.

ON THE WEB

To see surveillance video of these jewel heists, visit links.tampabay.com. Authorities ask anyone with information to contact Pinellas County sheriff's Detectives Amy Plourde or Carl Vitro at 727 582-6200 or Crime Stoppers at (800) 873-8477.

[Last modified April 19, 2007, 07:12:08]


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