Brink’s truck theft: Stranger at jewellery present could also be clue

A person in darkish denims and a black trench coat sat in a folding chair close to the rear of the San Mateo County Occasions Heart. He wore headphones and a blue surgical masks that coated most of his face.

His presence might need gone unnoticed have been it not for the occasion that simply passed off there: the Worldwide Gems and Jewellery Present.

After 5 pm on July 10, the expo ended. Dozens of exhibitors have been packing up the contents of their glass show instances of gleaming jewels price tens of hundreds of thousands of {dollars}. At the moment of day, solely approved personnel have been allowed within the exhibit corridor, so the person aroused the suspicion of exhibit supervisor Brandi Swanson, a self-described “Mama Bear” who taken care of distributors on the occasion.

The person was wanting on the jeweler, she stated. Swanson stated she confronted him and yelled, “Stand up. Get out of right here. What are you doing?”

He informed Swanson he did not converse English, however she wasn’t intimidated. “A safety guard got here up and I stated, ‘You observe him out the entrance door,'” Swanson stated.

As soon as outdoors the occasion heart, the person within the trench coat was joined by one other man in an identical surgical masks.performers They took footage of the boys and the silver Honda Civic they drove away, Swanson stated.

The incident, together with different suspicious people current in and across the occasion heart that day, took on larger significance just a few hours later, when Brink’s huge rig carrying merchandise from show-attending jewelers was stolen on the Grapevine truck cease. The July 11 theft passed off when the 18-wheeler truck stopped on the Flying J Journey Heart in Lebec at round 2am. Thieves made off with 22 baggage of jewelry, though the worth of the jewels is disputed. However the whole worth of the jewels might be round $100 million.

Though exhibitors and Brink representatives had been warned of disturbing exercise on the present, the criminals carried out the theft, Swanson stated. And he or she, for one, noticed a potential connection.

“You’ll be able to’t simply rob Brink’s truck with no plan,” Swanson stated. “These guys aren’t stealing something that we all know of — they don’t have anything on them. They’re planning.”

Brink spokeswoman Dana Callahan stated in a press release that the corporate is “not conscious of any reviews of suspicious exercise by the San Mateo present organizer.”

a wide building "World Expo" he it

The San Mateo County Occasions Heart hosted the Worldwide Gem and Jewellery Present on July tenth. The following day, Brink’s giant rig, which was transporting the jeweler’s wares from the venue, was stolen.

(Daniel Miller/Los Angeles Instances)

One of many males seen at or close to the San Mateo occasion heart on July 10 could have been concerned within the crime, two folks aware of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Division and the FBI’s ongoing regulation enforcement investigation into the theft stated. The sources, who weren’t approved to remark publicly, warned that investigators believed suspicious people commonly watched the nationally touring jewellery festivals.

Actually, Arnold Duke, president of the Worldwide Gem and Jewellery Present in Rockville, Md., stated for years the occasion has been hit by “snatch artists” attempting to steal from jewelers and clients. The San Mateo present has been a daily goal for such criminals, he stated.

“Often they present up on the finish of the present, when persons are packing their baggage,” Duke stated. “They wish to seize a briefcase and run.”

It is a simple theft in comparison with Brink’s heist, which can have been one of many largest jewellery heists of all time. In response to a earlier report by The Instances, investigators consider that the theft was carried out by a gaggle of skilled criminals given the dearth of violence and the pace of motion. Richmond, Va.-based Brink’s stated the crime occurred over a 27-minute interval when one driver of the 18-wheeler fell asleep inside and the opposite was choosing up meals at a truck cease.

Investigators now consider skilled thieves used a number of automobiles to trace the massive rig from San Mateo, in accordance with two folks aware of the matter. Criminals waited for the proper second to interrupt into the trailer, presumably unaware of the scale of the loot that awaited them, sources stated.

Many vehicles are at the gas station.

The Flying J Journey Heart in Lebec was the scene of Brink’s massive rig jewellery heist in July.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Instances)

Sheriff’s Division investigators working with the FBI have obtained video associated to the incident, a minimum of a few of which is from the San Mateo incident. Swanson stated the exhibit offered authorities with a number of pictures and movies taken on the July 10 Expo. The Instances acquired 4 of the pictures from a jeweler, which it obtained from occasion organizers after the incident.

The pictures doc different suspicious occasions that occurred in direction of the top of the present.

“That night time,” Swanson stated, “so much occurred.”

arouse suspicion

After the expo ended at 5 p.m., jewellery firm staff had about an hour and a half to pack their baggage and hand them over to representatives of Brink’s, which had contracted to ship merchandise to the Los Angeles space for the commerce present in Pasadena. .

Round 6 p.m., a jeweler on the present walked out of the occasion heart and seen a strange-looking automobile within the parking zone. It was a grey automobile with “blacked out” home windows so he could not see inside. Even the entrance windshield is darkish – and the automobile would not have entrance and rear license plates.

“That makes me very suspicious,” stated the jeweler, who, like different businessmen interviewed by The Instances, requested to not be named due to safety considerations.

People browse between the two rows of jewelry displays.

Attendees of the September 2 San Mateo Worldwide Gem & Jewellery Present browse jewelers’ wares.

(Daniel Miller/Los Angeles Instances)

The jeweler tried to take footage of the automobile, nevertheless it drove away, he stated. He reported what occurred to safety personnel stationed in entrance of the exhibit corridor. Swanson confirmed that the guards acquired a tip from the jeweler and stated they have been additionally unable to take footage of the departing car.

Later, when the jeweler discovered of the theft, he turned curious concerning the mysterious automobile he noticed. “I used to be somewhat shocked by it,” he stated.

There are just a few different encounters involving unknown people. In a single case, a person sporting a baseball cap, sun shades and headphones was noticed outdoors an occasion heart. After the expo closed, Swanson stated, he lingered close to the loading space on the rear of the constructing.

“He was informed to depart the property,” Swanson stated, including that the person pulled right into a crimson Dodge Charger that “seemed attention-grabbing.” A photograph of the sedan was snapped and subsequently shared with a minimum of one jeweler.

Wander via the rows of distributors on the Jewellery Present because it returns to San Mateo on September 9. 2 State how enticing the occasion is to thieves. Show instances maintain dozens of diamond necklaces, gold rings and emerald earrings. Some suppliers focus on jade, others in free gem stones or pearls. However a number of empty cubicles have been a reminder of the toll the theft took: Solely a handful of jewellery corporations whose merchandise had been stolen returned to the present.

Some buildings are surrounded by parking lots next to the highway.

The Brink’s theft on the Flying J Journey Heart in Lebec affected 14 jewellery corporations.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Instances)

Fourteen of the victimized jewelers, together with a minimum of eight in Los Angeles County, are in a dispute with Brink’s over the worth of the stolen merchandise. The jewelers estimated their whole damages at about $100 million, however Brink’s stated the merchandise was price lower than $10 million. That disagreement is the topic of two ongoing lawsuits filed in August.

The dispute wasn’t the one controversy raised over the heist, with questions mounting over the timeline of the puzzling crime. There’s additionally the problem that Brink’s staff have been warned, if ever, about suspicious exercise on the present earlier than the massive rig began driving down Interstate 5.

As jewelers packed their showcases after the July 10 present, a message from present organizers blared over loudspeakers within the venue. The alert urged jewelers to take precautions when leaving the power after studying of suspicious males in and across the occasion centre.

Whereas the present’s organizers routinely launch such info, the day was “terribly pressing” given what occurred earlier, Swanson stated.

Across the identical time, Swanson stated she issued a separate warning to Brink representatives within the venue, a minimum of a few of whom have been there to deal with imports of jeweler’s items.

“I went out of my technique to go as much as these folks and say, ‘Hear, there’s so much occurring right here tonight, and it’s essential listen,'” Swanson recalled. “I stated, ‘Hear guys, there are lots of people right here who should not be right here.’ I do not know in the event that they did something — I stated what I needed to say and walked away.”

Callahan, a Brink spokeswoman, stated the corporate was “not conscious of reviews of suspicious males in or across the San Mateo present, or close to the realm the place the claimant signed the transportation contract and delivered the products.”

A jeweler who was the sufferer of the theft stated that when he was packing up his sales space on the finish of the day, Swanson informed him she had simply warned Brink’s staff.

Orange bag and box.

Brink’s baggage on the San Mateo Worldwide Gem & Jewellery Present in September. 2.

(Daniel Miller/Los Angeles Instances)

As soon as the jewelers’ packing containers have been packed, they wheeled them on trolleys to the again of the conference heart, the place Brink’s representatives picked up the merchandise and associated paperwork, the 2 jewelers stated. It is all the time an anxious time, even for veterans of the commerce present circuit.

“My two costly show instances — my diamond show case — I name them my treasures,” stated one of many sufferer jewelers. “They’re like my kids.”

The packing containers are available giant orange baggage marked with the Brink’s emblem. Later, they have been saved on Brink’s tractor trailer. “Our load was too giant to slot in a typical armored truck,” Duke defined.

Actually, the huge rig was carrying 73 jewellery baggage—a lot of which weighed 70 to 100 kilos—because it rumbled away from the occasion heart simply after 12 a.m. into the crisp Northern California night time. The jewelers could have heeded the warnings from the loudspeaker as they packed their wares, however since then it has been out of their fingers.

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