Three men rob salesman of $1 million in jewels in Pine
Three masked men made off with jewelry — said to be worth an estimated $1 million — during a daytime heist on Wednesday in Pine, the second major theft in Allegheny County since April that targeted a jewelry salesman, police said.
The armed robbery occurred shortly after 4:30 p.m. in the parking lot of Grafner Brothers Jewelry Store in Pine Tree Shops on Perry Highway, said Chief Robert Amann of the Northern Regional Police Department.
“The victim parked his car and saw three men dressed in black and wearing masks approaching,” the chief said, adding that at least one man had a knife. “The salesman got out of his car and took off running.”
As one man pursued him, the other thieves broke the window of his car and grabbed a bag containing the jewelry, police said. A witness followed the getaway vehicle, which eventually pulled behind a muffler shop on Route 19. The thieves fled on foot across Brown Road to a CVS pharmacy, where someone driving another vehicle picked them up, Amann said. No description of that vehicle is available, he said.
“We got some pretty solid video from the CVS that shows the men without their masks on,” Amann said. “We're releasing the images in the hopes it will help lead us to the suspects.”
The FBI is assisting Northern Regional in the investigation, FBI spokeswoman Kelly Kochamba said.
On April 12, thieves broke into a salesman's car parked in the lot of a Monroeville hotel and stole $250,000 worth of jewelry, police said. No arrest has been made.
Pine Detective Jeff Hoffman said police are not ruling out a possibility of a connection, though the investigation is in its early stages.
“We're looking at everything,” he said.
Major thefts, such as those in Pine and Monroeville, typically are the work of a criminal organization, said Trooper Robin Mungo of the state police, which is not part of either investigation.
“I think it's unlikely they'll just head to some pawn shop or business that buys gold and try to sell it. It wouldn't surprise me if they already had customers lined up to buy the stolen items,” Mungo said.
Mungo said pawn shops and legitimate businesses that buy gold and other precious metals require sellers to provide proper identification.
Harton Wolf of Henne Jewelers in Shadyside said some gems can be traced by a mark etched into the stone with a laser. Henne's owner, John Henne, is treasurer of the trade association Jewelers of America.
In the Pine incident, the salesman, who is from New York, pulled into a shopping plaza headed to Grafner Brothers Jewelry Store, Amann said.
John Lloyd, one of Grafner Brothers' owners, said the salesman is a manufacturer's representative who was carrying a line of finished jewelry made with diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds that “easily” is valued at $1 million.
Amann declined to place a value on the jewelry, except to say that his department is investigating “a major theft.”
Amann said the three robbers fled south on Route 19 in a gray Nissan Maxima that had the license plate covered.
Lloyd said the salesman, whom he declined to identify, told him he had just left a nearby jewelry store and thought he might have been followed.
“We're just thankful that he wasn't hurt,” Lloyd said. “The jewelry can be replaced; that's what insurance is for. Unfortunately, he's in a business where people are extremely vulnerable.”
In 2003, when Lloyd's business was on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, thieves broke in at night, disabled a top-flight alarm system and used sledgehammers and electric grinding tools to peel back the steel doors on four safes and steal $150,000 worth of jewelry.
Nobody was arrested, and none of the jewelry was recovered, he said.
Police investigating last month's theft of jewelry in Monroeville said they suspected thieves followed the victim. No arrests have been made.
Raj Dhanak of the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn, who makes his living hosting private jewelry shows, parked his rental car in the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel lot near Monroeville Mall after driving from Cincinnati, where he hosted a show earlier in the day.
Thieves broke a window to get into the trunk where he had left the jewelry, thinking it would be safer there than if he carried it back and forth from the hotel.
Dhanak later learned that his insurance company will not cover the jewelry because his policy requires it be in his possession at all times.
Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lightning causes 2 fires as storm rattles Western Pa.
- Icy water, donations to fight ALS flow with social media’s help
- Barred Mt. Oliver firefighter turns up in gear at blaze, spurs investigation
- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra makes ‘great strides’ financially, audit shows
- Pittsburgh eyes plan to resolve impasse over Hill District project on former Civic Arena site
- Officers involved in shootings relay physical, emotional toll of incidents
- Renowned forensic pathologist Wecht critical of 3rd autopsy in Ferguson death
- Development deal set for hotel, convention space, international trade center near Pittsburgh International Airport
- College-bank deals inspire calls for openness from regulators
- Artificial quakes cause less shaking, study finds
- Bicyclists are peddling cause to Pittsburgh leaders