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O.C. jewel heist might be inside job

March 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A big jewelry heist was captured on videotape Tuesday morning. Three masked men broke into a jewelry store and begin smashing display cases. The three grabbed everything they could and got away.Investigators say that jewelry store burglary may have been an "inside job." The jewelry store is located inside The Shops at Mission Viejo, and the suspects apparently knew how security there operates.

Surveillance video shows the suspects walking back and forth for 10 minutes outside Kevin's Jewelers at The Shops at Mission Viejo. Then they shatter a small lower storefront window. The three step through broken glass. One even stumbles as they quickly make their way to the jewelry cases. They smash the glass display cases with hammers.

"They took men and women's watches," said Jim Amormino, Orange County Sheriff's Dept. spokesperson. "They took semi-precious stones. They took any type of gold jewelry -- of course, with the price of gold nearing a thousand dollars an ounce, it makes it very attractive."

The masked suspects jump over counters, taking as much as they can, throwing the jewelry into huge sacks. Authorities are still trying to figure out the exact value of the jewelry taken.

"I think it will be more than tens of thousands," said Amormino. "It will be substantial."

In just over a minute, they scramble back out the way they came in.

"There is a chance that the suspects may have worked here, may know someone who works here, but again it does appears that they are familiar with the operation," said Amormino.

The burglary happened at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, before the mall opened. Some tenants heard glass breaking and called police. Mall officials say they're careful to create a safe and secure shopping environment.

In a statement, officials said: "We employ an extensive staff of highly trained security officers. ... Continuous exterior vehicle, T3 patrols, interior foot and Segway patrols, security escorts and other security measures are all implemented," wrote Patsy Sanquist, mall marketing, The Shops at Mission Viejo.

So far, officials cannot explain how the suspects were able to enter the mall without being seen by security. The suspects managed to escape after the burglary before authorities arrived.

"They ran out near the food court entrance into a Porsche SUV, Cayenne," said Amormino.

Investigators are going to be taking a closer look at nearby security cameras to try to get a license plate on that vehicle, as well as any photos or video of the suspects once they took their masks off.

Investigators are looking for a dark gray Porsche Cayenne SUV. If you've seen it or you have information about the case, call the Orange County Sheriff's Dept. at (866) TIP-OCSD.


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