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Thieves May Have Gotten Away With Over $100M Of Jewelry In Armored Truck Heist

Los Angeles, CA – One of the largest jewelry heists of all time was carried out at a Flying J truck stop in Southern California earlier this month.

“We are talking multi millions here,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office (LACSO) Major Crimes Bureau Sergeant Michael Mileski told the Los Angeles Times. “It is a huge amount of money.”

“We are looking at more than $100 million in documented losses,” International Gem and Jewelry Show President Arnold Duke added. “This was an absolutely huge crime. One of the largest jewelry heists ever. We are talking gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and loads of luxury watches.”

Duke’s exhibitors had just wrapped up a show in San Mateo shortly before the heist occurred.

Most of their watches, jewelry, and gems were loaded into 70- to 100-pound plastic tubs and loaded onto a Brinks truck to be moved to the next show in Pasadena.

“There were 15 exhibitors each with $5 [million] to $10 million in merchandise,” Duke told the Los Angeles Times. “These are small businesses with their entire wealth vested in that truck.”

The heist occurred at approximately 2 a.m. on July 11, after two armed guards parked the tractor-trailer at a Flying J truck stop on Frazier Mountain Park Road along Interstate 5 in an area known as “The Grapevine,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

During the 27 minutes they were gone, a group of thieves managed to bypass the truck’s intricate locking mechanism and made off with much of the valuable load.

“We believe several thieves had to be involved,” Sgt. Mileski said.

Duke said the guards left the truck unattended to grab a bite to eat, CBS News reported.

“When they came back the discovered the truck had been breached,” he said.

But according to Duke, the guards violated protocol by leaving the vehicle unattended in the first place.

“Those men are not allowed to leave that vehicle unattended; it goes against all of Brink’s protocols,” he told CBS News. “I mean, it’s beyond my comprehension if that’s what indeed happened.”

He noted that the truck did not have any obvious markings to alert potential thieves about its contents, and investigators are still working to determine whether the group followed the truck to the location or if it happened to be a crime of opportunity, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The guards were openly carrying firearms, which Sgt. Mileski said could have potentially drawn the attention of someone who may have been keeping an eye out for trucks carrying valuable loads.

Duke said that many of the diamonds and watches are engraved with microscopic serial numbers to make them more trackable, KABC reported.

He said the show has utilized Brinks for transports for decades, and that they have never had any problems in the past.

“Their track record with us has been perfect,” Duke told KABC. “It’s really incomprehensible.”

Brinks claimed the heist was worth slightly less than $10 million based off of insurance, but Duke said the figure is far higher.

“[The owners] underinsure because the extra insurance is very, very expensive, and because everybody trusts Brinks one million percent and they’ve never lost anything of ours after all these years,” he told KABC. “People are just very, very comfortable.”

“Last week, a loss incident involving a Brink’s vehicle occurred near Los Angeles,” Brinks said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “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,” the company said.

Sgt. Mileski agreed that the $10 million figure was just a starting point, and that the total loss is likely much higher, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Duke said the theft financially destroyed many of his exhibitors.

“It affected their health in some cases,” he added.

Anyone who enters an International Gem and Jewelry Show is photographed and the vehicles used to transport such valuables typically have satellite tracking, armed guards, elaborate camera systems, and a bulletproof cab, according to Duke.

The exact route is kept secret as an additional security measure, he said.

Sgt. Mileski said investigators have reviewed security footage and interviewed potential witnesses, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also been speaking with anyone who knew about the load being moved.

“Obviously, we aren’t about to say what we have at this stage,” Sgt. Mileski added.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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