Truck Stop Jewelry Heist of Up to $100M Could Be Among Largest Ever: Report

If the $100 million estimate is right, this theft is among the top 10 biggest jewelry heists of all time.

byRob Stumpf|
Brinks Robbery Heist in Lebec, California
via Getty Images


By now, you've undoubtedly heard about the July 11 overnight heist of a Brink's security truck at a Flying J rest stop near Los Angeles. The unattended truck netted thieves millions, but exactly how much is still debated. New details are quickly inflating the $10 million figure initially given by a company spokesperson following the theft.

In fact, Brink's customers from the International Gem and Jewelry Show in San Mateo, California, whose property was traveling in the truck when it got pinched are pinning the score at well over $100 million, reports the Los Angeles Times. If that number is true, that makes the Brink's heist one of the most valuable jewelry pilferages in history.

The location of the Flying J truck stop in Lebec, California where the theft occurred. Google Maps

A jewelry theft of $100 million puts the Lebec, California theft smack-dab on the top-10 list of highest value heists, just below the 2008 robbery of a Harry Winston store in Paris—for which eight people were ultimately arrested—and the 2003 "heist of the century" at the Antwerp Diamond Centre in Belgium. From the outside, the theft of an unattended Brink's truck might not be a heist by definition, nor does it seem as interesting as bypassing infrared detectors, seismic sensors, a magnetic field, and then cracking a lock with 100 million possible combinations (which is what happened at Antwerp). But in the end, it netted the thieves with one of the highest takes of its kind.

Thieves likely tracked the armored truck from the time it departed the International Gem and Jewelry Show in San Mateo on July 11 and made its way to the next stop in Pasadena, according to the Los Angeles Times. When the truck stopped at a Flying J rest station nearly 350 miles away in Lebec, the two armed guards reportedly left the truck unattended. It took just 27 minutes to make off with nearly 40 times as much as the average worker earns in their entire lifetime—and it was accomplished simply by bypassing the truck's locking mechanism. Initially, a statement from Brink's reported that the losses were around $10 million, but that figure appears to have been under-reported.

“According to the information the customers provided to us before they shipped their items, the total value of the missing items is less than $10 million,” said Brink’s in its initial statement. “We are working with law enforcement, and we will fully reimburse our customers for the value of their assets that were stolen, in accordance with the terms of our contract.”

Brandy Swanson, the director of the International Gem and Jewelry Show, revealed that 18 victims of the heist were declaring more than $100 million in losses. That figure was also backed up by the show's president, Arnold Duke, who stressed just how large the heist actually was.

“We are looking at more than $100 million in documented losses. This was an absolutely huge crime. One of the largest jewelry heists ever. We are talking gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and loads of luxury watches,” Duke told the Los Angeles Times “There were 15 exhibitors each with $5 [million] to $10 million in merchandise.”

So why the huge discrepancy between Brink's initial report of $10 million and the reported ten-fold loss of more than $100 million? It all boils down to insurance. Swanson clarified that customers often can't afford to fully insure their merchandise when traveling between shows, meaning that the initially reported figure may represent the value of underinsured merchandise rather than the total value taken in the theft. Duke says that the burglary has financially destroyed some of the businesses it affected and has also affected the health of some victims.

At $10 million, the theft was a huge hit for those affected. A heist worth $100 million means that it could go down in history as one of the largest jewelry heists of all time. Local police and the FBI are actively investigating the theft.

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