Suspected SF jewelry thieves arrested in Nebraska

April 12, 2011 6:23:26 PM PDT
Good police work and good luck resulted in the capture of four people, who investigators say burglarized homes across the country, stealing fine jewelry consisting of precious heirlooms and irreplaceable mementos.

The suspects are charged with receiving stolen property. All four are Colombians and may belong to a wider network of thieves operating out of the East Coast.

"These folks came out here, they did burglaries along the way, they did some on the West Coast," San Francisco Police Capt. Rich Corriea said.

The afternoon of April 3, the burglars hit a home on the 300 block of 29th Avenue in the Richmond District. Some 20 items of jewelry had been stolen. Investigators believe the home was targeted. Somehow the thieves knew the owner was not there.

"There was a lot of expensive items in there and the person who entered that residence just went straight into one room and took the jewelry and other items," San Francisco Police Sgt. Henry Lam said.

Most was heirloom jewelry, priceless because of its sentimental value.

"Some pieces handed down mother to daughter and the beginning of the last century," Corriea said.

On that afternoon, an alert neighbor thought the car with the New Hampshire plates looked suspicious. He wrote it down and when he found out about the burglary, he gave it to police. Investigators tracked the car's history all the way back to LaGuardia airport in New York. They issued a nationwide police bulletin.

"A Nebraska state trooper was monitoring traffic on Highway 80 and had a speeder go by at 85 miles an hour and pulled it over and it's our car," Corriea said.

The four were arrested. Inside the car were more than 400 pieces of jewelry.

Corriea credits good police work and good fortune.

"It's as good as it gets in our business to get cooperation nationwide and then a stroke of luck," he said.

The four suspects are charged with receiving stolen property. The troopers also found $20,000 cash.

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