Cracking Down on Global Jewel Theft Rings
Protecting our National “Treasures”
Taking a Bead on an International Ring of Jewel Thieves
It began with a car chase: one cold January afternoon this year, a handful of South American immigrants from New York City stole nearly $100,000 worth of Rolex watches from a jewelry store in Cranston, Rhode Island. They fled the scene in a minivan, with local police in hot pursuit. Minutes later, they slammed into a police cruiser. They jumped out of the van and fled on foot, but four were immediately caught and arrested.
One lead led to another...all the way to Operation Cut and Run, a massive investigation by the FBI, the New York City Police Department, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, and other law enforcement partners.
In the end, this multi-agency initiative uncovered and ultimately took down a criminal enterprise that had stolen more than $3 million worth of high-dollar pieces of jewelry across the eastern seaboard in more than 90 separate thefts. So far, 16 members of the crew have been arrested or indicted, and one has pled guilty.
For the FBI, it’s a textbook jewelry theft case, as you can see on our Jewelry and Gem Program website.
- The thefts were orchestrated by a signature international enterprise: a South American Theft Group, or SATG that operated out of New York City, one of the common bases for jewelry theft rings.
- The ring was sophisticated: the thieves would enter jewelry stores in small groups, with some members distracting sales and security personnel while others operated as lookouts. Once the coast was clear, some of them would stand around a showcase to shield it from view while others used a tool to cut the silicone holding the case together and remove the goods. The group would then leave the scene and meet a waiting get-away vehicle.
- The thefts extended across state lines, bringing in the FBI with its national and international network of agents.
- As usual, fences played a role in receiving and moving the stolen goods.
- Then, as we do in all of these cases, we enter the intelligence gained—including the modus operandi of the group and descriptions of suspects—into our Jewelry and Gem database. This information helps law enforcement partners nationwide coordinate any related investigations and better understand the jewelry and gem criminal enterprises operating in the U.S. We also provide training to local jewelry professionals who are targets of these crimes.