Business

Brink’s heist timeline ‘does not make any sense’

It has been greater than two months because the multimillion-dollar heist of knickknack from a Brink’s massive rig at a Grapevine truck cease, but key details concerning the high-profile crime stay in dispute.

There’s debate concerning the worth of the pilfered items, for instance, with estimates starting from lower than $10 million to greater than $100 million. And questions at the moment are swirling across the timeline specified by a Brink’s authorized submitting and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department paperwork, which counsel an nearly impossibly swift journey for the tractor-trailer.

This a lot is thought: a Brink’s massive rig loaded with the wares of jewelers taking part within the International Gem and Jewelry Show departed the San Mateo County Event Center on July 11 for a storage yard about 370 miles south in downtown L.A.

From there, the gamers within the case disagree. Brink’s mentioned in a lawsuit that its two drivers made the roughly 298-mile, late-night trek from San Mateo to the Flying J Travel Center in Lebec in about 2 hours, 4 minutes, even becoming in a cease alongside Interstate 5. To traverse that distance so rapidly, the car would have needed to drive at speeds upward of 140 mph.

It would take greater than 4 hours to drive the route whereas adhering to hurry limits.

Jerry Kroll, lawyer for the sufferer jewelers, who quantity greater than a dozen, mentioned that the sequence of occasions described by Brink’s “doesn’t make any sense.”

“Why aren’t we being told what happened here? This can’t be,” Kroll mentioned. “Our clients deserve an explanation. The victims suffered a life-altering theft … and they are given a set of facts that doesn’t add up.”

It is unclear whether or not the improbability of the timeline laid out by Brink’s and the Sheriff’s Department might be attributed to a easy misstatement or one other mundane rationalization. Similar caveats apply to questions concerning the timing of authorities’ response to the crime, through which thieves stole 22 baggage of booty whereas, in line with Brink’s, one of many drivers snoozed inside his car’s sleeping berth and the opposite was getting meals on the Flying J.

A Sheriff’s Department incident report reviewed by The Times mentioned that each drivers advised a deputy that their car left San Mateo at about 12:01 a.m. — info additionally famous by Brink’s in a authorized submitting. At 2:05 a.m., the large rig arrived on the Flying J, and the driving force went to get his meal, in line with Brink’s. Upon his return 27 minutes later at 2:32 a.m., Brink’s mentioned, the driving force found that the 18-wheeler had been compromised. A information launch issued by the Sheriff’s Department on July 18 mentioned that the theft occurred throughout the identical timeframe.

The sheriff’s incident report, which was drawn from preliminary interviews with the drivers, mentioned that deputies responded to a “vehicle burglary call for service” on the truck cease round 3:56 a.m. It didn’t say when the drivers alerted regulation enforcement, leaving unclear how a lot time elapsed between the crime, its reporting and authorities’ response.

Asked concerning the chronology, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Mileski mentioned, “We are not prepared to provide updated information at this time,” although he famous that investigators with the division’s main crimes bureau had performed in-depth interviews with all these concerned.

Brink’s spokeswoman Dana Callahan mentioned that the company is “continuing to work with the law enforcement agencies investigating this incident. We defer to those agencies on questions about their investigations.”

Kroll mentioned essentially the most unlikely aspect of the chronology disclosed by Brink’s pertains to the 18-wheeler’s journey because it approached the Grapevine. Brink’s has mentioned that the car stopped on the Buttonwillow relaxation space about 1:49 a.m. so one of many drivers may use the lavatory, after which continued on to the Flying J, reaching it about 16 minutes later. The Buttonwillow relaxation cease is about 55 miles from the Flying J. Covering that distance in just a little greater than 1 / 4 of an hour would require driving at speeds upward of 200 mph.

“There’s no credibility to it,” Kroll mentioned.

Recently, two Times journalists made separate automotive journeys down that 55-mile stretch of the Interstate 5. One of the drives took 46 minutes and the opposite, accomplished in visitors that was at occasions very heavy, took 1 hour, 21 minutes.

The Flying J Travel Center in Lebec was the location of a Brink’s jewellery heist in July.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The timeline was first disclosed in an Aug. 4 lawsuit filed by Brink’s towards the affected jewellery corporations, whose merchandise the company was transporting to the L.A. space for an additional commerce present. The criticism is a part of a wider authorized dispute between the Richmond, Va., company and the jewelers over the dimensions of the stolen haul.

The Brink’s lawsuit alleged that the pilfered gadgets had a declared complete worth of $8.7 million — a determine it mentioned was drawn from agreements signed by its jewellery business clients. The criticism seeks to restrict any payout Brink’s may need to make to the jewelers to that quantity, alleging they “substantially under-declared the value of their shipments.” (Some jewelers have mentioned that they assigned their merchandise decrease values than their fair-market prices to cut back transport charges.)

The jewellery companies later alleged in a lawsuit filed towards Brink’s and different events that the unnamed tractor-trailer drivers’ conduct was “grossly negligent” — and that “lax security” by the company allowed the theft to happen. The lawsuit for alleged breach of contract and extra claims mentioned the jewellery corporations’ merchandise was price about $100 million. It seeks a minimum of $200 million in restitution and damages.

The sheriff’s incident report, dated July 11, reveals new particulars concerning the heist.

Written by a deputy who arrived on the scene, the report mentioned that the driving force who dined on the Flying J discovered upon his return to the car that its lock had been “cut away and the latches, where the lock once was, were bent. The lock was no where [sic] to be found.”

The sleeping driver famous that he “did not see who committed the burglary or hear anything unusual, or notice that they were being followed by anyone,” the report mentioned. But, it mentioned, the thieves left one thing behind: “metal fragments at the base of the trailer’s locking mechanism.”

The incident report mentioned that the tractor-trailer’s cargo — which included gems, jewellery, watches and different treasured gadgets — was contained in “orange marked Brinks bags.” It additionally mentioned that the blue 2019 Volvo massive rig was “marked Brinks.” It didn’t observe the presence of car security measures that jewelers and others within the business have advised The Times they anticipated Brink’s to have utilized when transport worthwhile merchandise. For instance, the report doesn’t point out an alarm on the door of the Brink’s trailer or cameras anyplace on the car.

Jewelry on display.

An proof picture supplied by the FBI reveals a sampling of things stolen within the Brink’s heist.

(FBI)

Arnold Duke, president of the International Gem and Jewelry Show, mentioned he “always thought there was” an alarm on the door, “but certainly never checked it.”

“I was under the impression that everything had satellite tracking, cameras, alarms,” he mentioned.

Callahan didn’t reply to a question concerning the car’s security measures however has beforehand mentioned that Brink’s doesn’t disclose info on the subject as a result of it may compromise operations.

Investigators imagine that the heist was the work of subtle criminals, given the shortage of violence and the pace of the thieves’ work, amongst different elements. Sheriff’s Department investigators, who’re working with the FBI, have mentioned that they’ve obtained video footage associated to the incident.

Jewelers say that their companies have been upended by the lack of their merchandise. “For some of them, [the theft] has completely destroyed their financial lives,” Kroll mentioned.

As for the vexed timeline, he mentioned: “Brink’s has some explaining to do to the court — and to my clients.”

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