FBI Forms Task Force to Hunt Down ‘Gate Cutters’ Jewelry Theft Ring

December 1, 2005

The FBI today has formed The Gate Cutters Jewelry Task Force to partner with local police and the gem industry in trying to catch a team that has burglarized more than 50 jewelry stores on the East Coast, often by cutting their security gates.

Since April 2003, an organized criminal ring dubbed the “Gate Cutters Jewelry Crew” is believed to have burglarized more than 50 jewelry stores of more than $5.1 million in jewelry. These burglaries occurred in at least 10 East Coast states, possibly 12. The organization burglarizes primarily national, mall-based stores and has victimized 16 different companies.

As of October 2005, this criminal ring is believed to have operated in Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia. This ring may also have committed additional burglaries in Florida and Illinois.

“The potential danger to the public is clear,” stated FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker, Criminal Investigative Division. “While we are concerned about the impact the dollar loss has on the American consumer, we’re even more concerned about the potential for violence. We’re determined to do everything possible to prevent a shopper, security guard, police officer, or other innocent passerby from getting hurt. We’re especially concerned about this as we go into the holiday shopping season with larger numbers of people in the stores at later hours.”

The Gate Cutters Jewelry Task Force was formed on October 20, 2005 at a meeting in New York City. The meeting was attended by the FBI, local law enforcement officers from many of the affected jurisdictions, and representatives from the jewelry industry. The task force has developed a unified investigative strategy and is pooling information and resources to streamline this coordinated multijurisdictional investigation.

The participants heard of this criminal ring’s modus operandi:

Jewelry stores are generally burglarized when lighting conditions in a mall/store are low, thus making identification via closed circuit television difficult. Subjects typically use mall fire exits as entry and exit points.

Jewelry stores are usually burglarized before or after normal store business hours when a mall may be open for evening theater customers or early morning walkers.

The subjects are known to cut through roll down security gates to enter the jewelry stores. Once inside, they pry open display cases and remove products that are not secured in a safe. In most cases, the subjects do not attempt to enter safes and are usually in the store for a very short period of time.

The subjects typically wear hooded sweatshirts. They are described as possibly African/American or Hispanic males. Witnesses have noted teams of four to five individuals committing the crime, with one person acting as a lookout.

The subjects generally target men’s gold jewelry, such as chains, bracelets and rings as well as Movado watches.

Witnesses have observed the subjects leaving the scene in a van or SUV.

Anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals responsible for these thefts will be eligible for up a $25,000 reward offered by the FBI. All tips will be kept confidential. The task force requests any information regarding jewelry store burglaries with a similar modus operandi be provided to local law enforcement, the nearest FBI Field Office or via the tip line at 1-800-CALLFBI (1-800-225-5324).

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