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Victim of $500,000 jewelry robbery identified, suitcase found

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The investigation into the Dec. 8 jewelry heist at an area rest stop continues, officials said today, and a bit more information has been released.

Direct Diamond Importers of Iowa, an independently operated business not associated with any retail businesses, was the victim of the early morning robbery at the Interstate 90 Marion rest area.

Officials with the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota State Patrol were called at 12:07 a.m. that day. They learned that a vehicle carrying seven people on the way home from a jewelry and diamond trade show in Chicago had pulled into the rest stop to use the restrooms. Two people stayed with the vehicle.

A van pulled up behind their vehicle, said Capt. Scott Behrns, and at least four people — believed to be males — got out of the van, smashed several windows on the victims' vehicle and grabbed three or four traveling suitcases filled with gold and silver jewelry and loose diamonds.

A statement issued this morning from Direct Diamond Importers said the business had exhibited at the show many times before, adding, "this was a planned attack," something authorities confirm.

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The driver of the victims' vehicle put it in gear in an attempt to create a distraction and hopefully prevent the robbery, Behrns said, striking the suspects' van at least twice.

The robbers, who were dressed all in black, were able to get back into their van and leave westbound on the interstate.

Authorities found the van dumped in a ditch shortly after they arrived, but there was no sign of any of the suspects.

Behrns said this morning that the Chatfield Police Department on Friday recovered a suitcase believed to have been stolen in the robbery. The case was found near U.S. Hwy. 52 and Olmsted County Road 7 Southeast, he said, and contained jewelry display items.

"This appears to be a high-level robbery by people who knew what they were doing," Behrns said last week. "We believe the victims were followed from the show in Chicago" and were robbed at the earliest opportunity.

While preliminary reports estimated the loss at $500,000, Direct Diamond Importers said in its statement today that the inventory is still being assessed, and it "likely won't know the extent of the loss for some time."

Because the crime includes multiple states, the FBI is also involved.

Behrns declined to comment on the availability of surveillance video from the rest stop or the trade show, as well as any information about the suspects' van that was found. He also declined to elaborate if another vehicle may have been waiting in the area.

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Though the victims appear to have been followed for at least six hours, no one noticed anything suspicious before the stop at the rest area, Behrns said. The suspects were, he said, "very patient."

Anyone who may have seen anything during the time of the robbery, either at the rest area or the intersection of U.S. 52 and Olmsted County 7, is asked to contact the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office at www.rochesterolmstsedcrimestoppers.org or calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Callers may remain anonymous.

Related Topics: CRIMEPOLICE
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