Suspects arrested in West Covina, Santa Fe Springs linkes to regional surge in jewelry store robberies

Recent smash-and-grab jewelry store robberies and arrests throughout the San Gabriel Valley and Southern California are believed to be linked to a single, large group of Los Angeles gang members with a taste for expensive baubles, authorities said.
Six suspects arrested in Santa Fe Springs and West Covina are suspected in jewelry store heists in Fullerton and El Monte, respectively.
They are suspected to be part of a crime ring that carried out similar robberies in Santa Ana, Norco, Placentia, Los Angeles, officials said.
“It’s quite obvious there’s a large group, because they keep picking people off, and they keep coming,” Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.
While the suspects arrested in Santa Fe Springs and West Covina are not currently suspected of more than one robbery each, they are all members of the same subgroup of the Crips street gang which has shown a growing interest in jewelry store heists in recent weeks, the corporal said.
In the crimes, the robbers are in and out in less than a minute. They leave at least one getaway driver double parked out front as they enter the store, smash open cases, help themselves to jewelry, then flee.
Four robbers carried out just such a crime Oct. 30 at a Don Roberto Jewelers on Garvey Avenue in El Monte, El Monte police officials said.
Using a handgun and wearing ski masks, four men stormed the store, smashed open display cases and stole a large amount of jewelry and cash before fleeing in a getaway car, El Monte police Detective Ralph Batres said.
Devon Gholston, 21, of West Covina, Albert Turner, 18, of Cerritos, and Rodnell Moorer, 19, of Los Angeles were arrested on suspicion of the robbery after a high-speed car chase that led to the Westfield mall in West Covina. The driver of the fleeing vehicle escaped by fleeing through the mall and remained at large.
The three suspects in the El Monte case were being held in lieu of $1 million bail, Batres said.
Detectives received a possible lead in the case Friday after a man was detained at the U.S.-Mexico Border near El Paso, Texas, El Monte police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.
The man had jewelry in his possession, authorities said, and a copy of a Nov. 1 story from this newspaper regarding the El Monte robbery.
Investigators in Texas sent photographs of the jewelry the man was found with to El Monte police, who determined they did not match any of the items stolen in the Oct. 30 robbery.
Authorities continue to look into any possible connection the man may have to the Southern California jewelry store heists.
Three more suspected jewelry store robbers and Los Angeles Crips were jailed at a Santa Fe Springs motel Oct. 28 on suspicion of participating in a Fullerton jewelry store robbery earlier in the day and auto theft, Whittier and Fullerton police officials said.
A Whittier police officer was investigating the men in connection a stolen vehicle.
During his investigation at the Budget Inn, 13420 E. Firestone Blvd., police discovered the men were suspects in a robbery several hours before at a Fullerton Jewelry Mart, 1475 S. Harbor Ave.
They had been staying at the motel, police added.
Dashawn Coleman, 22, of Los Angeles, Bryant Burnett, 19, of Compton and Lavell Grant, 22, of Lynwood, were booked on suspicion of auto theft in Whittier before being turned over to Fullerton police in connection with the robbery.
In that heist, Fullerton police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said, six robbers entered the store, smashed open display cases and helped themselves to jewels before employees realized they were not armed and began to fight back by throwing objects at the robbers.
Due to the multiple investigations being carried out by law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California, it was not clear how many jewelry store robberies in all are believed to be connected to the recent wave of gang-fueled crimes. At least eight cases were under investigation.
For unknown reasons, the ring of robbers appears to favor Don Roberto Jewelers in their crimes, investigators said.
Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Bureau confirmed they are also looking into the trend, but declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

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