Millions of dollars — perhaps over a hundred million dollars — worth of gems and jewelry were stolen from a Brinks tractor-trailer in California.
The theft, which was only publicly acknowledged this week, is shocking the gem industry because of the huge amount of jewelry taken and because the thieves hit a security company with a sterling reputation.
The jewels were taken from a Brinks armored vehicle parked at a rest stop in Lebec, California, 80 miles north of Los Angeles. The trailer was carrying materials from a jewelry show in San Mateo to another exhibition in Pasadena when 20 large footlockers of valuable jewelry were stolen.
“The sheer quantity of gems and jewelry wouldn’t fit in one car. It’s a staggering amount of jewelry and for it to be left alone is unconscionable,” a shocked Arnold Duke, head of the International Gem and Jewelry Show hosting both events, told CNN.
“I’ve been doing this professionally for 45 years and never have we had anything remotely close to this,” he said.
The theft happened between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. on July 11 but was only publicly revealed by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department on Monday.
There are dueling estimates as to the total value of the stolen jewelry.
Mr. Duke estimates that the show’s smaller merchants lost around $700,000 in jewels, while the larger corporate partners lost around $12 million.
Brinks offered its own figure, saying in a statement that “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.”
However, the exhibitors say the merchandise altogether could be worth $100-150 million. This extreme discrepancy is the result of the industry’s rock-solid trust in Brinks.
Mr. Duke told Los Angeles ABC affiliate KABC-TV that the figures given to Brinks likely are intentional lowballing to save on insurance.
“They under-insure, because the extra insurance is very, very expensive. And because everybody trusts Brinks a million percent, and they’ve never lost anything of ours. After all these years, people are just very, very comfortable,” he said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI are investigating the heist but no suspects have been named as of Wednesday.