FBI investigating massive jewelry heist in SoCal

Tuesday, July 19, 2022
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Jewelry and other valuables worth millions were stolen from an armored truck in Southern California.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Jewelry, gems, high-end watches and other valuables worth millions of dollars were stolen from a transport vehicle in Southern California.

The Brink's cargo trailer was headed for a jewelry show in Pasadena early on the morning of July 11 when it was robbed after the driver pulled over at a rest stop in Lebec.

The driver and crew pulled over at the Flying J travel plaza in Lebec around 2 a.m., according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. At some point while it was parked at the rest stop, someone broke in and stole the cargo. The driver and crew of the vehicle are cooperating with investigators, officials told ABC News.

The trailer had been loaded the day before following an exhibit near San Francisco.

It was not immediately clear if the thieves had followed the vehicle at some point during its journey from the Bay Area or stumbled upon it at the rest stop as a crime of opportunity.

The FBI office in Lancaster is working with the LASD to investigate.

"It's such a tragic situation," said Arnold Duke, president of the International Gem and Jewelry Show.

Multiple exhibitors, some of them based in downtown Los Angeles, had merchandise on the truck and many of them have lost their life savings. Insurance is expected to only cover a fraction of their losses.

There is some conflicting information about the value of the merchandise.

Brink's says the items were given an estimated value of less than $10 million. But exhibitors say the value is actually between $100 million to $150 million.

The discrepancy is apparently the result of a common practice in the industry.

"They under-insure," Duke said. "Because the extra insurance is very, very expensive. And because everybody trusts Brink's a million percent. And they've never lost anything of ours. After all these years, people are just very, very comfortable."

Duke said stolen items include gold jewelry, thousands of diamonds, about 100 watches from Rolex and Cartier and rare gems. Some of the items, like the watches and diamonds, have engraved serial numbers and may be trackable.

The traveling show happens every week at different locations around the country. The Brink's truck was heading to the Pasadena Convention Center for the July 15-17 show.

Brink's issued a statement that read in part: "According to the information the customers provided to us before they shipped their items, the total value of the missing items is less than $10 million. We are working with law enforcement and we will fully reimburse our customers for the value of their assets that were stolen, in accordance with the terms of our contract."

Law-enforcement experts say a heist of this magnitude is rare.

"To have a robbery like this occur with that amount of money, possibly upwards of $150 million in losses, is just incredible," said law-enforcement expert Bruce Thomas.