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Monroeville jewel heist probe hits dead ends

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Saturday, April 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Investigators trying to determine who stole jewelry worth $250,000 from a car parked in Monroeville have hit dead ends in the case.

Police say the thief took jewelry from Raj Dhanak, 47, of the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn, who earns his living by hosting private jewelry shows, mostly for Indian-Americans.

Dhanak parked his rental car in the lot of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel near Monroeville Mall late at night on April 12, when he arrived from Cincinnati, where he hosted a show that day.

Monroeville police hoped to glean something from surveillance cameras but could not.

“We couldn't get anything off the video because the car was parked in a weird spot,” said Monroeville police Chief Steven Pascarella.

Detectives have not located witnesses, Pascarella said.

“We're checking with other jurisdictions to see if they can provide us with any information,” he said.

Investigators suspect the thief knew Dhanak's routine and followed him to the hotel.

Whoever stole the jewelry, contained in six bags, broke a window to gain access to the trunk. Dhanak told police he thought the jewelry would be safer there than if he carried it in and out of the hotel.

Dhanak's insurance company later told him that the stolen jewelry would be covered only if he kept it with him at all times, police said.

Blood collected from inside the vehicle was sent to the Allegheny County crime lab for analysis, but test results could take weeks since violent crimes take precedence, said Allegheny County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams.

“A good blood sample can be sequenced to create a DNA profile that can be entered into the FBI's CODIS database to try to get a match,” Williams said. But he noted that although CODIS — the Combined DNA Index System — contains millions of DNA profiles, they belong to people convicted of crimes.

“Unless the person's DNA profile is already in the system, it won't do much for the investigation,” he said.

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7987 or

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