UPDATE: Jewelry store thieves ‘pros’

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Police released this image of two of the suspects. Three more allegedly distracted the clerk at a jewelry store while they took $100,000 in diamond rings, according to Cape May police. The crime was announced on the police department’s Facebook page. Police released this image of two of the suspects. Three more allegedly distracted the clerk at a jewelry store while they took $100,000 in diamond rings, according to Cape May police. The crime was announced on the police department’s Facebook page. CAPE MAY – Thieves who stole about $95,000 in jewelry from Artisan’s Alcove in Cape May, May 8, are alleged to be part of an interstate shoplifting ring.

Artisan’s Alcove owner William Scott said FBI agents were in Cape May Friday to interview him about the theft in which perhaps six people were involved. Scott said five people entered the store when only one employee was there. A sixth remained outside, apparently connected to the inside group by cell phone. He said one man remained outside with earphone in his ears and a cell phone in his hand. At one point on the security tape, a man inside the store appears to communicate with someone via a cellphone device.

Security camera footage clearly shows the faces of two individuals, a man and a woman, who were the first to enter the store and speak to the store employee. The couple was described as black and in their 50s. The employee described the man as dressing like a “Nation of Islam” member, in a grey suit with a bow tie, and very well spoken, with a standard American accent. The woman might have had a slight African or Jamaican accent.

The man is clearly seen on video recordings taking jewelry from the jewelry case and handing it to a woman wearing what appears to be a Muslim woman’s head scarf. The items were taken while the other three individuals, two men wearing baseball caps and a woman wearing a floppy hat, drew the employee’s attention from the other two and block her view.

She told the Gazette the thieves might have noticed a fixture at the top of one wall with wires coming out of it and assumed the security camera was not working. However, the entire episode was recorded. Scott said at one point an individual took out his wallet and a photo ID was picked up by the camera. He said the FBI hoped to be able to blow up the image to identify the individual.

Scott said the glass tops of the jewelry case had just been cleaned less than an hour before the theft and police were able to pick up good fingerprints.

Scott said he and his son and left the store at around 3:30 p.m., on May 8, to go by bike to his daughter’s softball game in Lower Township. He said security footage recorded the couple entering the store at 4:12 p.m. Scott said it is store policy to always have two people in the store, but one of his employees had quit and he was shorthanded.

The couple engaged the employee in a conversation about sapphires and other stones and the other three entered the store and started looking at some diamond hoop earrings. A man in the group asked to look at some diamond studs, and the first woman told her to go wait on them, saying they had nothing to do and were not in a hurry.

“When I went to show them the earrings they positioned themselves so I could not see the others,” the employee said.

At this point on the security recording, the man in the grey suit is shown reaching over the case and removing trays of engagement rings from inside the case. She and the woman are constantly checking to see that the employee was still distracted. They work their way down the case, reaching a point where the case is locked, and move to another case. The recording shows the man handing a tray of rings to the woman, who puts them in a handbag.

Scott said the people obviously knew what they were after, as the man passed over a Rolex watch to get the rings.

With the items concealed, the couple leaves and the woman touches one of the men on his arm as an apparent signal that they were finished.

Scott pointed out that on the video one man appears to have a weapon concealed inside a newspaper.

“The police even said it looked like he had a gun or a knife in the folded newspaper,” Scott said.

The individuals asked what types of payments the store takes, and then asked where they could find a bank. Almost immediately after the five left the store, the employee noticed the theft and called the police. According to Scott, the police were happy to receive the call so soon, so the crime scene was not disturbed.

Scott said a friend of his who has a jewelry store in Tampa, Fla., recognized at least one of the men from the security images, and said he is suspected of stealing a six carat diamond from his store.

Scott said 30 rings were taken in the theft, at a retail value of $95,000. He said he is insured with Jewelers Mutual, as are many jewelers, but he would like to get his merchandise back.

Anyone with information should call the Cape May Police Department at (609) 884-9500.

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