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Chicago man nabbed in connection with $1 million Pine jewelry heist

| Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 10:15 a.m.
These submitted photos show the three suspects wanted for the armed robbery of an estimated $1 million in jewelry on Wednesday from a salesman in the parking lot of a Pine jewelry store. The photos are from a surveillance camera at a nearby pharmacy where the men fled. Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call 911.
These submitted photos show the three suspects wanted for the armed robbery of an estimated $1 million in jewelry on Wednesday from a salesman in the parking lot of a Pine jewelry store. The photos are from a surveillance camera at a nearby pharmacy where the men fled. Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call 911.
Chicago Police Department
Oscar Rodriguez, 30, of Chicago was arrested Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, in Chicago in connection with the May robbery of a jewel salesman in Pine.

Fingerprints in a getaway car and a simple check for outstanding warrants may have helped police begin to crack a $600,000 jewelry heist from May in Pine, police and court records say.

Chicago police stopped Oscar Rodriguez, 30, of Chicago on seeing him block traffic while standing in the middle of a street about 2:45 a.m. Friday, Chicago police Officer Jose Estrada said. A name check told police that Rodriguez was wanted on a warrant from Pennsylvania for robbery, Estrada said.

Northern Regional police Chief Robert Amann confirmed Rodriguez is one of the people investigators believe is responsible for stealing jewelry May 8 from a salesman in the parking lot of the Grafner Brothers Jewelry Store in Pine Tree Shops on Perry Highway.

“It's all in the early stages,” Amann said.

Chicago police notified Northern Regional about 4:30 a.m. of the arrest, Amann said.

A few days after the theft, an owner of Grafner estimated the jewelry was worth about $1 million. In a criminal complaint filed against Rodriguez, who was born in Colombia, police estimated the thieves made off with about $600,000 worth of jewels.

Northern Regional police filed charges of conspiracy and robbery against Rodriguez. Amann said this is the first arrest in the case.

“It's still an ongoing investigation,” he said.

The jewelry salesman told police three men wearing masks and dressed in black approached him when he parked his car in the lot. The salesman said one man had a weapon, the complaint said. The salesman ran away while the thieves broke a window of his car and grabbed a bag of jewelry.

A witness who was not identified in the complaint told police that the thieves and one other person fled in a gray Nissan. The witness lost sight of the car, then spotted it behind a muffler shop. The occupants were gone, the complaint said.

Another witness told police that the people in the Nissan — one with a backpack — ran from the car toward a pharmacy, the complaint said.

Police dogs led officers to the CVS parking lot, where they found fresh footprints, but the trail ended there, the complaint said. Video surveillance from CVS captured images of two people walking into the store and two others outside the store.

Investigators found several fingerprints inside the Nissan, and two were traced to a man whom police identified as Rodriguez. A photo of him matched an image from the CVS video, the complaint said.

Rodriguez waived extradition at a hearing in Cook County Court on Friday and he was held without bail in the Cook County Jail, a spokeswoman with the Cook County State's Attorney's office.

Pittsburgh police are investigating a possible connection between the Pine heist and the robbery of a diamond dealer in June in the parking garage of the Gateway Towers, Downtown, acting Major Crimes Cmdr. Scott Schubert said.

In April, thieves broke into a salesman's car in the lot of a Monroeville hotel and stole $250,000 worth of jewelry, police said.

In June, a diamond dealer told police that three men attacked him in a Downtown parking garage and made off with a backpack full of diamonds and jewelry.

Amann would not say whether police believe any of the cases are connected.

“Everything is being looked at at this time,” he said.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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