Colombian man gets 33 months in prison in Pine robbery of jewelry salesman | TribLIVE.com
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Colombian man gets 33 months in prison in Pine robbery of jewelry salesman

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Tribune-Review
United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Even the Pittsburgh attorney for a Colombian man sentenced Monday for his part in a 2013 robbery of a traveling salesman of a half million in gemstones and jewelry has questions about the crime.

Oscar Javier Rodriguez Roa, 36, of Bogota, Colombia, was sentenced Monday to 33 months in federal prison for his part in the robbery.

“Holy smoke, there’s a lot of unanswered questions,” said James J. Brink, his court-appointed attorney.

In April, Rodriguez Roa pleaded guilty to the robbery. He had been extradited from Colombia in December 2018 after he was convicted of committing a murder there, Brink said. Once released from the U.S. prison system, Rodriguez Roa will serve a 17 year sentence in Colombia for that crime, Brink said.

Rodriguez Roa doesn’t speak English, Brink said. His role in the case was to make sure Rodriquez Roa’s rights to due process were followed, Brink said.

Rodriguez Roa and three suspected accomplices who haven’t been named or charged were part of a theft ring that targeted jewelry sales people in the United States and abroad, officials said. The group traveled from Georgia to Western Pennsylvania in May 2013 and targeted the New York City salesman as he got out of his car in a Pine jewelry store parking lot, according to prosecutors.

The armed robbery occurred in broad daylight in the parking lot of Grafner Brothers Jewelry Store in Pine Tree Shops on Perry Highway, police said at the time. Chief Robert Amann of the Northern Regional Police Department said at the time that the traveling salesman parked his car and saw three men dressed in black and wearing ski masks approach it. At least one man had a knife, according to police. The salesman got out of his car and took off running, Amann said at the time.

As one man pursued the salesman, 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.

Police released images of the men walking into CVS without their masks on.

The group stole a bag with about $500,000 worth of gemstones and jewelry from the man and fled in a getaway car before ditching it and running away, prosecutors said. Surveillance video showed Rodriguez Roa and the accomplices in the area with the bag.

His fingerprints were found on the getaway car. A week later, Rodriguez Roa boarded a flight from Texas to Colombia, authorities said.

The crime leaves several unanswered questions about how the gangs operate and how they find their targets, Brink said.

He said it also begs the question: “Who travels with half a million of jewels in the backseat?”

The robbery was one of three similar cases that happened in the Pittsburgh area in 2013.

The president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, John Kennedy, told the Tribune-Review then that the thefts are the work of professional criminals who stake out their targets.

“They will follow them for 500 miles. If they spot a guy they think is a good mark, they will follow him for days,” told the Trib in 2013.

Renatta Signorini and Tom Davidson are Tribune-Review staff writers. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter @TribDavidson.

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