Orange County jewelry store owner hatches plan to catch burglars, disappointed by outcome

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (KABC) -- Brian Hassine is leaving the hole in his jewelry store's roof until he says his business is made whole again.

Six weeks ago, thieves cut the power to Nuggets and Carats in Laguna Niguel, and they got to work.

"In our case, they noticed the power was not back on because we weren't notified, and they proceeded to cut a hole in the ceiling, come in and take everything we owned," said Hassine.

Brian says surveillance video shows the cars and suspects showing up, before they ransacked the place, breaking into the safe, taking a smaller safe and taking roughly $1.2 million worth of jewelry. He reported it to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Three weeks later, he received a call about the power being cut at his other store in Mission Viejo.

"The store was open already, and it was daylight. I realized the crooks aren't coming now, they're coming tonight," said Hassine.

He immediately called detectives and began to hatch a plan to catch the crew, including a six-hour stakeout. Like clockwork, he says the crooks showed up and began cutting a hole in the roof. He called 911 and deputies chased some of the alleged suspects down.

"It's over! I just caught them in three weeks," said Hassine. "I had the potential to recover some of my clients' jewelry. There was this feeling of exhilaration."

Deputies say they detained five Chilean nationals in one of the cars, a rented SUV, the same car Brian says he saw at his store. But, they were released due to a lack of evidence, much to Hassine's disappointment.

The sheriff's department sent Eyewitness News this statement: "We are actively investigating both incidents, and due to the open investigation cannot share specific details regarding what occurred or the tactics used to attempt to apprehend the suspects. The suspects who were detained in Mission Viejo were questioned, interviewed and released due to lack of evidence. Their car was towed and the driver was cited for driving without a license. We are proactively reaching out to jewelry stores in our jurisdiction to inform them of the burglaries and the tactics used, and ensuring that they contact us if anything similar happens.It's completely understandable that Mr. Hassine is frustrated, and we also want nothing more than to hold accountable the individuals who committed the burglaries. We will continue to actively investigate."

Hassine said he's been failed on multiple levels by multiple people. He says he has no hope the jewelry will be recovered.

"If you're there, waiting for a crime to occur, and they actually come, there's your cause for holding those people, getting a warrant issued, and searching their homes," said Hassine.

He says he is now seeking legal action against both cities, the owner of the shopping center where his store is located, his alarm company and his insurance company.
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