Brink’s Guard Slept as Thieves Stole Millions in Jewels

From a Washington Post story by Julian Mark headlined “Brink’s guard slept as thieves stole millions in jewels, lawsuit says”:

Parked at a truck stop in Southern California in early July, a Brink’s truck had it all: gold, gemstones, Rolex watches — and a guard, sound asleep. Thieves broke into the truck and made off with 22 bags of the jewelry, according to two lawsuits.

The owners of jewelry say they lost tens of millions of dollars in the heist, and law enforcement officials are searching for the thieves. In the meantime, the armored-truck company and the jewelry owners are arguing in dueling lawsuits about how much money Brink’s must repay.

More than a dozen jewelers filed their suit this week against Brink’s, which uses armored trucks to transport and deliver valuables such as cash and jewelry. The jewelers are accusing Brink’s of mishandling the expensive property and then leaving the truck susceptible. They say their businesses are in ruin, and they’re suing for hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Everyone in our group has been emotionally and financially destroyed,” the plaintiffs said in a statement to the Associated Press. “We are lost and do not know what comes next in our lives. Whatever plans we all have for the future for our businesses and our families has evaporated in an instant.”

Brink’s disputes the total loss, alleging in its lawsuit that the jewelers understated the value of their items in declarations before the company began transporting the valuables to Los Angeles. The total “declared value” of the stolen items, the Brink’s lawsuit claims, is $8.7 million.

The company, which operates more than 16,000 vehicles in 100 countries, revealed in its lawsuit that one of its guards was sleeping as the heist took place. Both lawsuits detail the truck’s journey from a San Francisco Bay area gem show to a truck stop north of Los Angeles, where it was broken into.

On the evening of July 10, more than 70 bags of jewelry were loaded into the Brink’s truck at the close of the International Gem and Jewelry Show in San Mateo, about 20 minutes south of San Francisco, according to the lawsuits. The truck took off around midnight and began its journey toward a Brink’s storage yard in Los Angeles, with one armed guard driving and the other sleeping in a designated area.

A couple of hours later, the guard pulled into the Flying J truck stop in Lebec, about an hour north of Los Angeles. The driver went into the restaurant for food, leaving his fellow guard to sleep. But when the driver returned about a half-hour later, he noticed that the truck’s rear lock had been “cut away,” the lawsuit states.

The guard, who had been sleeping in the back, “said that he did not see or hear anything unusual,” the lawsuit states.

But after taking stock of the items with law enforcement, it was determined that 22 bags of jewelry were missing, according to the Brink’s lawsuit. An investigation by the FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff is ongoing, and investigators told the Los Angeles Times this week that they’ve obtained video relating to the incident.

Sgt. Michael Mileski, an investigator with the Los Angeles County sheriff’s office, told the Los Angeles Times last month that he believed multiple thieves got through the truck’s locking mechanism, which he said would not be hard to do.

“We are talking multimillions here,” Mileski told the paper. “It is a huge amount of money.”

The jewelers’ lawsuit says the bags contained “tens of millions of dollars’ worth [of] jewelry and gemstones.” They allege that the truck was parked in a poorly lit area with the rear door facing away from the restaurant and out of the view of surveillance cameras, according to the Times.

Lawyers for Brink’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday, and Brink’s has not yet filed a response to the jewelers’ lawsuit.

Brink’s says in its lawsuit that it’s only liable for the $8.7 million “declared value” of the items stolen.

“This was an absolutely huge crime,” Arnold Duke, the president of the International Gem and Jewelry Show, in which the jewelers displayed their items, told the Times in July. “We are talking gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and loads of luxury watches.”

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