Jewelry Thieves Resurface

March 10, 1999

Jewelry Thieves Resurface

A ring of thieves that has preyed on the jewelry industry across the U.S. recently returned to the Los Angeles, CA, area, according to the Los Angeles Times. The theft ring is being held responsible for holding up an Encino jewelry manufacturer and a jewelry salesman in Woodland Hills.

Police believe the thieves are primarily of Colombian background and focus on wholesalers in major cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and New York City. The LAPD formed a jewelry theft task force in 1997 to fight the syndicate. In its first seven months the task force produced 52 arrests and curbed a spate of robberies, said Det. Mike Woodings, who has been tracking the ring since 1988. But since the first of this year, the syndicate has been blamed for nearly 30 robberies totaling about $7 million in California, mostly in Los Angeles County. Woodings said the thieves use two-way radios and cellular phones to coordinate their actions, staking out jewelry stores or hanging out at industry trade shows until they find salespeople.

The Jewelers' Security Alliance documented slightly more than $53 million in losses by traveling jewelry salespeople in 1998, and unreported losses could add $150 million to that number.

- by Peggy Jo Donahue