WHITTIER >> A crew of burglars devastated a 40-year-old Whittier jewelry business when they made off more than $1 million worth of jewelry and precious metals during a “sophisticated” break-in at the Whittier Boulevard business over the weekend, authorities said.
The crime took place sometime between Saturday evening and Monday morning at Whittier Jewelry Mart, 14414 Whittier Blvd., Whittier police Lt. Mike Przybyl said.
An exact tally of what was stolen was not available, however the stolen jewelry and precious metals were believed to be worth between $1 million and $3 million, the lieutenant said.
“Based on what was done, there were multiple people involved. It was a fairly sophisticated effort,” Przybyl said.
Owner Alberto Montes De Oca said Wednesday that he remained “numb” from the loss of his livelihood, but was grateful the heist took place when no one was present and that no one was hurt.
But he said he did not yet know how the family business could recover from the devastating loss of its entire inventory of valuables.
“Forty years of work, it just went down in one second,” Montes De Oca said.
“For me, it’s a terrible hit. And for my family,” he said. “It feels like a dream. It’s hard to comprehend.”
Police declined to discuss specifics of how the burglary occurred, citing an active investigation.
But officials confirmed that the crime showed signs of planning and seasoned burglars.
“The people who did it, they knew what they were doing,” Przybyl said.
Police received no alarm activation from the business, he said.
“They came in through the roof,” Montes De Oca said, adding that he suspected the burglary took place early Sunday morning.
The burglars cut their way into a fortified safe, as well as smashed open display cases to help themselves to valuables, he said.
The stores alarm system, phone line and electricity line were cut, Montes De Oca said.
“It looks to me like they were professionals,” he said.
Montes De Oca said he was yet to determine the exact value of the stolen property. “It’s in the millions,” he said.
The proprietor said the family business would remain closed as he contemplated how to move forward. The needed repairs to the business alone will be costly, let alone the loss of his entire inventory.
Among the stolen items were pieces of jewelry and other precious items customers had set aside on layaway, as well as some brought by customers for repairs.
The Whittier Jewelry Mart has been operating in Whittier for four decades, Montes De Oca said.
The store was located in Uptown Whittier for its first 20 years, until it was destroyed by the Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987. The business was relocated to Whittier Boulevard, where it has remained ever since.
Anyone with information can reach Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.