More details behind smash-and-grab robberies at Houston area jewelry stores

July 31, 2012 1:13:24 AM PDT
It's been eight months since the first of several smash-and-grab robberies that terrorized shoppers and employees at jewelry stores around our area. Now, we're getting an inside look at what investigators say this ring of thieves was doing.

According to court records, this organized group had it all figured out. They had a jewelry store on the southeast side that would buy the stolen watches, diamonds and gold. But before they even got that far, they spent a lot of time planning. One hit investigators detailed but was never carried out gives us a glimpse at how far they went in their preparation.

"They need to be stopped before there is a greater tragedy," Crime Stoppers spokeswoman Katharine Cabaniss said.

Even as the heat was on with dramatic surveillance video and public pleas, we've learned the men police believe are behind as many as 42 smash-and-grab robberies, including ones at The Galleria and Memorial City Mall, were planning another. And this time, the target was an armored car.

"In and of itself, it's sophisticated," former FBI agent Bob Dogium said.

According to court documents, Nicholas Payne and Lucious Davis were asked by an undercover agent posing as a security guard for an armored car company to help carry out the heist. It was to happen May 24; Payne and Davis would be armed with guns, including a tranquilizer gun -- and they even wanted the names of the other security guards wives and children as leverage if needed.

Mid May, Roderick Irvin enters the picture. They all discuss police response times and request from the undercover agent more security guard uniforms to confuse any patrol officers who might respond. They also drive the route of the targeted armored car, time it as well as the traffic lights, making them a more sophisticated kind of criminal.

"Now they've taken it to a level," Dogium said. "They're obviously planning not only to do the act that they want to carry out but they're trying to plan what they want to do after that," Dogium said.

On May 24, the accused robbers were a no-show. Instead, investigators believe they were caught on surveillance video robbing an EZ Pawn in Austin, stealing watches and jewelry worth $167,000.

Last month, they were identified. All but Nicholas Payne are now in jail.

One investigator says deciphering this ring is still a big work in progress. It's believed they stole hundreds of thousands dollars worth of merchandise over many months.

One of those men, Desmond O'Quinn, was arrested Monday.

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