Las Vegas Sun

August 27, 2014

Gang uses sledge hammer to smash displays; scoops loot into pillow cases:

Gunmen rip off $1000,000 in jewels

Las Vegas Wholesale Jewelers, 840 E. Twain Ave., was robbed Friday by a gang of gunmen who smashed open nine glass display cases and scooped out an estimated $100,000 in gold and diamond jewelry.

No injuries were reported in the 10:35 a.m. holdup although one of two clerks, Marrianne Smith, was held with a gun to her head and a woman customer, not publicly identified, was threatened. Police also declined to identify a second store employee present during the holdup.

At least four men and possibly six were involved, police said.

Four entered the store while two more were staked out in the parking lot on foot during the robbery, evidently to warn the others if the police arrived.

Officers did not get there until after the bandits had fled, however. They later said the gang made a clean getaway.

In the store, while one robber held his pistol to Smith's head, a second used a sledge hammer to break all of the display cases, including a vertical case behind the counter, and two more thieves quickly scooped jewelry into pillow cases, police said.

All four robbers wore gloves. The two jewelry scoopers were equipped with heavy work gloves, evidently so they could scoop jewelry and broken glass together into their pillow cases and not be cut by the sharp glass shards.

A rented car in which the four arrived, and used for their getaway, was found abandoned shortly afterward in the 1000 block of Sierra Vista Drive a half-mile from the store. The street is lined with large apartment houses that apparently made the robbers and their car inconspicuous.

The two gang members on foot were seen running from the store's parking lot as the others drove off in the rented car. Police said they assumed those on foot were somehow able to join their comrades later.

The method of operation is similar to a California-based smash and grab gang of jewel robbers who operate in the Los Angeles area, Sacramento and San Jose, according to police.

The same group is believed to have staged a similar jewelry here in 1985 of the Service Merchandise store, 1095 E. Twain Ave., two blocks away from Friday's holdup.

The abandoned car was traced to Los Angeles where it had been rented this week by a man using the identification of a person long dead, police said.

This also fits the gang's pattern, they added, saying the group probably had a second automobile waiting where they left the rental car.

Friday's robbery target was well chosen, probably after careful observation, according to police.

Las Vegas Wholesale Jewelers does not face busy Twain Avenue but instead fronts on a shopping center, the Twain-Swenson Plaza, facing away from the street. The firm designs, manufactures and sells jewelry to the public.

A witness to the holdup said that before the robbery, when the quartet parked their car outside the store and got out, three of them waited for the fourth to finish a soft drink before they went inside.

The store's front door is routinely locked and customers must push a buzzer that rings inside before employees can open it by hitting a button.

The bandits pushed the buzzer and were routinely admitted, police said.

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