'Movie-like' heist of Houston jeweler

February 12, 2011 10:44:48 AM PST
An elaborately planned jewelry heist that can only be described as something out of a movie. It all went down at the Karat 22 Jewelers store in southwest Houston.

So close to Valentine's Day, 22 Karat Jewelers on Hillcroft near Harwin would normally be full of customers.

The store just got new inventory in.

"My staff, we haven't even seen it yet," said store owner Aku Patel.

And now they probably never will.

"He said everything, everything is gone," Patel said.

That's the phone call the owner got from his son Sunday morning when he arrived to open the store. Instead of finding their gold and diamond necklaces, bracelets, earrings and watches safely stowed in their vault, they were all gone.

"We are shocked," Patel said.

And how they were stolen is confounding.

"We can't even imagine how this can be done unless you have knowledge like we have," said Patel.

Since the crime is still fresh and crews are re-installing security systems, Patel didn't want us to show you how the crooks got in, but he let us see it. They made entry late last Saturday night through the roof, disabled the alarm and cut through 6-inch concrete and steel to get to the vault.

Once inside, they emptied an estimated $1 million worth of jewelry into garbage bags. Houston police are reviewing surveillance video on which there is more than one crook.

"It's not your normal, one shot criminal. These are really organized gangs. It's not the work of an ordinary criminal," Patel said.

Patel and his employees are still trying to figure out what all was taken. For now he wants to warn other jewelers or anyone who uses a vault for business.

"I feel like it is my duty to let them know be careful," he said.

And while the heist is a major setback, Patel has managed to see the upside.

"We are grateful to God that we weren't hurt physically. Material things can always come back," he said.

The store is still open by appointment and will re-open completely in a couple of weeks. It has been broken into before, but that burglar we're told left his driver's license behind and is now in prison.

If you have any information on this case, you are asked to call Houston police.

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