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Lowndes County arrests may be linked to Gainesville Jewelry heist

$200,000 worth stolen in Thursday morning break-in

POSTED: February 12, 2008 5:03 a.m.

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Four burglars stole more than $200,000 in merchandise from Gainesville Jewelry on Jesse Jewell Parkway early Thursday morning and Gainesville police are investigating a possible connection with three men caught with an estimated $250,000 worth of jewelry Lowndes County.

Gainesville police responded to the store’s alarm after 3:15 a.m. Thursday. Lt. Brian Kelly said the heist appeared to be well-planned, and the three men detained in Lowndes County could be related to multiple jewelry store thefts in the past several months in the Atlanta-metro area, Florida and South Carolina.

Phil Forrester, owner of Gainesville Jewelry, said the in-store surveillance camera captured images of four people forcibly entering the store and exiting in less than three minutes. Forrester said the burglars caused more than $12,000 in damage.

"When we got here it was a mess," Forrester said. "We’ve got an extensive camera system and the police are following up on some strong leads now."

Later Thursday afternoon, Lowndes County Sheriff Capt. J.D. Yeager said deputies arrested three men who had multiple pieces of jewelry with tags still attached. Yeager said the men were going south on Interstate 75 near the Georgia-Florida border in a rented black BMW with a Florida license plate. The car was pulled over for a window tint violation.

During a search of the vehicle, Lowndes County deputies found traces of marijuana and what officials estimate to be $250,000 to $300,000 worth of jewelry.

The men were arrested on a marijuana charge. Lowndes County officials could not say whether the jewelry is connected to the Gainesville robbery.

"These guys have got these bags (of jewelry) for a bad reason. (We) just really don’t know exactly where they came from," Yeager said.

The three men are being held in the Lowndes County jail.

Kelly said two Gainesville detectives will travel to Lowndes County today to inspect the jewelry.

Times reporter Ashley Fielding contributed to this report.



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