Saxon’s Fine Jewelry in Bend’s Old Mill District was robbed in bright daylight during on a crowded Friday afternoon in late May, and two suspects eluded capture. Now there’s news that five suspects were arrested, accused of hitting jewelry stores from Bend to Nashville.
It was the May 20th, the day before the Pole Pedal Paddle. The Old Mill District was packed. One of the visitors walked into Saxon’s, said he was in town for the PPP, then minutes later ran out with over $100,000 worth of diamonds.
It appears to have been planned down to the tiniest detail.
Employees said Thursday a man walked in with a bottle of wine, saying he wanted to share it with his wife while picking out a large diamond.
“He was very friendly, very cordial. He was well dressed in golf attire, clean cut and very soft spoken,” said Natasha Henderson, an employee at Saxon’s.
It wasn’t the first time workers at Saxon’s had spoken with him.
“They had made an appointment two weeks prior,” said Ron Henderson, one of the store’s owners.
The caller asked for Natasha specifically.
“That was the part I was hung up on the most: How did they know to come to me?” she said.
The man’s alleged wife never came. While showing him some jewelry, he grabbed it and ran, allegedly jumped into a van driven by another person. The van was found dumped less than a mile away.
“They are very well-schooled — they know the business and they know what they are doing,” said Ron Henderson.
Court documents indicate Natasha Henderson had met Jack Cannon that day. Cannon, along with Michael Young, Ernest Remor, Victor Lupis and Trey Adams were arrested and charged with at least seven jewelry heists stretching from Bend to Nashville, Tennessee.
Updated by the FBI this week, Ron Henderson says he believes the crime spree is much larger than revealed so far.
“It sounds like maybe as many as 11 states and 25 jewelry stores, and that information hasn’t broke yet,” he said..
The group is believed to have stolen more than $1.4 million worth of jewels. Court documents show the theft from Saxon’s alone was worth $151,200.
According to an affidavit from an FBI special agent, Cannon had left a card with a name and phone number for Natasha to call him back. Police learned the number was tied to a “throw-away”-type cell phone bought at Bend’s ShopKo on May 9. Surveillance video from that store told authorities it was Remor, one of the other now-identified diamond theft ring suspects.
Henderson said while the Saxon’s security camera video was not definitive, his staff was able to identify the suspects’ mugshots as the man authorities have identified as Cannon.
The government alleged in court Wednesday that last spring, the team struck stores in Bend and Troutdale for a combined loss of $173,000.
The day of the heist, Bend police Lt. Brian Kindel said a man wearing a visor and with a Southern accent, but apparently unarmed, stole an undisclosed amount of jewelry at Saxon?s on Powerhouse Drive around 3:20 p.m., that Friday, then ran to a waiting, stolen getaway van.
The suspect and driver ditched the van in the parking lot of South Valley Bank and Trust on Bluff Drive, running from the scene, Kindel said. Officers determined the white van recently had been stolen from Tigard, near Portland, he added.
“There was no weapons used,” Kindel told NewsChannel 21. “It was an aggravated theft. Certainly they are bad guys, we would like to catch them, and that’s what we are going to put every effort towards.”
Officers set up a search perimeter and two police dogs (one from Bend PD, the other the Deschutes County Sheriff?s Office) were called in to help in the search, much of which focused on a sighting near the TRG Customer Solutions (formerly iSky) call center building. But the men were never found.
Two Florida men who appeared in a Portland federal courtroom Wednesday are among the five men charged in the diamond theft ring that hit jewelry stores across the country, prosecutors said.
Michael Young, 39, of Davenport, FL, and Ernest Remor, 36 of Spring Hill, FL, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Janice M. Stewart on a federal indictment charging one count of conspiracy to commit the crime of interstate transportation of stolen property and three counts of interstate transportation of stolen property.
Both men were detained in federal custody as a flight risk and a danger to the community pending a trial set for Sept. 27.
Three other defendants, Trey Adams, 27, of Charlotte, NC; Victor Lupis, 25, of Monroe, NC; and Jack Cannon, 25, of Madison, GA, were also charged in the indictment and will appear at a later date, prosecutors said.
The indictment alleges the conspiracy included an elaborate plan to steal diamonds from various jewelry stores across the United States.
After stealing the diamonds, the suspects would transport the jewels to the state of Pennsylvania for sale. They allegedly agreed to steal diamonds from jewelry stores in Oregon, California, Tennessee and Nevada.
Before the thefts, the defendants conducted surveillance of the stores to identify security vulnerabilities and store employees they could target in an effort to steal the diamonds, the indictment alleged.
The defendants would assign roles to execute the theft, including appointing getaway drivers and individuals to keep a lookout for law enforcement.
To steal the diamonds, one of the defendants would enter the target jewelry store and ask a store employee to show him high-value diamonds. That defendant, or another, would then grab the diamonds and run out of the store to a waiting getaway vehicle. The diamonds were then transported to Pennsylvania for sale, prosecutors said.
There were seven diamond thefts, including thefts at jewelry stores in Lake Oswego, Portland, and Grants Pass between December 2010 and January 2011.
The indictment further alleges that the defendants stole diamonds valued at more than $1.4 million from the various jewelers.
If convicted, the maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit the crime of interstate transportation of stolen property is five years, a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, and three years supervised release.
The maximum penalty for counts of interstate transportation of stolen property is 10 years, a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, and three years of supervised release.
The Portland Police Bureau launched an investigation into the theft at Margulis Jewelers last December.
After developing information that this was a nationwide diamond theft ring, detectives presented the matter to the FBI. Over time, Portland Police and the FBI were able to tie numerous other thefts across the country into the larger investigation.
The investigation is ongoing, and the Portland Police Bureau and the FBI continue to work the case jointly.
?This is not some Hollywood fantasy film filled with ?A list? stars and fancy cars,? said Alan J. Peters, acting special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon.
“This is a criminal case with real victims stretched across the U.S. Thanks to great partnerships with the Portland Police Bureau and assistance from Salem Police and the U.S. Marshals Service, we have cracked this diamond ring.?
Portland Police Chief Michael Reese said, ?I want to thank the Portland Police officers and detectives who conducted a thorough investigation regarding the theft that occurred in Portland and then worked cooperatively with federal officials as well as other law enforcement agencies across the country. Together, all involved helped build a strong case against those who were responsible. Now they can be held accountable.?
This case was investigated by FBI and the Portland Police Bureau, with assistance from Salem Police and the U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Kerin and Michelle Holman Kerin are prosecuting the case.