THE WOODLANDS, Texas (KTRK) --Fake 911 calls, hazmat suits and pickaxes were all part of an elaborate plan to steal half a million dollars in diamonds, according to the self-proclaimed ringleader in a violent jewelry store heist.
Jose Villarreal, 43, testified against the last of five defendants in the robbery at Jared near The Woodlands that happened July 17, 2013. His testimony helped convict Brandon Powell, 31, on Tuesday. Wednesday, a judge sentenced Powell to 30 years in prison. Three others took plea deals.
After the sentence, dramatic surveillance video of the crime that was shown to the jury was released.
The video shows five men storming in with pickaxes concealed in hazmat suits and masks. They smash jewelry cases in assembly line fashion. Villarreal was leading the charge with his gun drawn.
"He was the mastermind of the operations, and that's what he testified to," said Laura Bond, Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney, who prosecuted the case. "It was a well-calculated, violent offense."
Villarreal was sentenced to life in prison in 2014 for the robbery. He identified his accomplices. Powell was his ex-brother-in-law.
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At trial, Villarreal detailed his plan. He told the jury he chose the store because it didn't have a security guard. He cased it at least twice so he knew to send his men to the back for the high-end diamonds, and he placed fake 911 calls so he knew how long he would have before officers would arrive. A getaway driver was at a nearby gas station on the phone, counting down their average response time of 90 seconds.
"They had it really well-timed. This was a professional act," Bond said.
A minute and a half is what it took to order seven employees and customers -- including children -- to the ground, shatter glass and collect $500,000 in diamonds. Bond says Powell left behind a crucial piece of evidence. Investigators were able to lift DNA said to be Powell's form a painter's mask found on the ground. It placed him at the scene.
In response, Powell's attorney, Willis Smith, told Eyewitness News, "Mr. Powell was very disappointed in the outcome of the trial. The DNA cell detected on the mask left at the scene was so minute and there was no other evidence presented as to how it got there, how long it's been there or whether it was just a coincidence. He does plan on appealing."
Bond credits the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office and its crime scene investigators for the outcome of the cases.
"Justice has definitely been served," said Bond.
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