Thieves steal jewelry and gems from unattended Brink’s trailer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Thieves broke into an unattended Brink’s tractor-trailer parked at a remote Southern California rest area last week and stole millions of dollars worth of jewelry and gems after the vehicle’s two armed guards drove away, authorities said.

The tractor-trailer had traveled overnight from a jewelry show in the San Francisco Bay Area to the Los Angeles area for another event. It was not immediately clear whether the suspects followed the vehicle on its 375-mile (603.5 kilometer) journey or came across it at the rest stop in a crime of opportunity, according to Los Angeles Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Milesky.

Wardens reported the heist around 2 a.m. on July 11 after noticing the trailer lock had been tampered with, Mileski told The Associated Press on Monday.

Investigators are trying to determine how the lock was broken.

“If I had that much money in jewelry, I think I would have the safest lock on it,” Mileski said.

It was not immediately clear how long guards left the vehicle unattended at the ‘Flying J’ rest area and gas station in the unincorporated community of Lebec, about 120.7 kilometers north from downtown Los Angeles.

The merchandise had been loaded onto the truck late on July 10 following an exhibition hosted by the International Gem and Jewelry Show in San Mateo, south of San Francisco, said group manager Brandy Swanson. He was heading to an event at the Pasadena Convention Center, just northeast of Los Angeles, she said.

While Swanson said 18 victims reported losses of more than $100 million, Brink’s said the stolen items were worth less than $10 million.

“Based on information customers provided to us prior to shipping their items, the total value of missing items is less than $10 million,” Brink’s said in a statement. “We are working with law enforcement and will fully reimburse our customers for the value of their assets that were stolen, in accordance with the terms of our contract.”

Representatives for Brink’s and the International Gem and Jewelry Show did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon.

Swanson said sellers who travel between jewelry shows typically underinsure their merchandise because they can’t afford to fully insure it.

“That’s where the gap comes in. They’re mom-and-pop operators,” Swanson said. “They are devastated. Some of these people have lost all their means of subsistence.

Mileski said detectives currently estimate the theft at $10 million, based on insurance, but they expect the amount to climb. Investigators are reviewing video footage from local businesses to see if the crime was recorded. The sergeant said several suspects allegedly carried out the heist.

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