New details emerge in 'movie-like' store heist

September 15, 2011 4:47:55 AM PDT
There are new developments in the multi-million dollar jewelry heist that led to the arrest of what police say are members of a major burglary ring. Now we're hearing from a Dallas businessman who unknowingly helped the suspects.

That businessman says he had no idea he was buying stolen gold, but he bought a lot of it. He has cooperated with police, and his information part of the puzzle investigators say helped crack this case and potentially dozens of others.

From store shelves at Karat 22 in southwest Houston to blocks of gold in just 24 hours time -- court documents say that's all it took for three men to melt down $6 million in jewelry and watches that Houston police say they had just stolen.

It was February 6 when three men caught on surveillance video cut through the store's roof and vault. The next day, John O'Brien was at Millennium Precious Metals in Dallas with a different story.

"It was a jewelry store going out of business, liquidating everything," said Bryan Wallace president of Millennium Precious Metals.

And Wallace believed him. He had worked with him and his brother, Kelvin O'Brien before, buying small amounts.

"Nothing different other than the volume. This particular batch was larger than normal," Wallace said.

In fact, the first batch of gold weighed 99 pounds. Four days later, he was back with 85 pounds. Wallace paid $3 million and didn't think much more about it until now.

"The insurance company mails out a little newsletter and I had just read it to my employees so they were all aware of it, literally 25 minutes ago and shocked, sort of," Wallace said.

We first told Monday about the arrests of John O'Brien and Jason Kennedy, who's nicknamed "Stretch" because of his 7-foot frame. Houston police are still looking for Kelvin O'Brien. All three are believed to be responsible for as many as 30 jewelry store heists in three states.

Karat 22's break in gave them the cash for luxury cars, a boat and even a million dollar crane, investigators say. And gold was their only target.

"They weren't interested in earrings, the bangles, the necklaces; they were just interested in the gold," said Sgt. Peter Schneider with FBI Major Theft Task Force.

In fact, court documents say Kelvin O'Brien's wife found loose diamonds in the washing machine after washing his clothes. Houston police are still looking for him. The others are in jail. All three are charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.

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