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Lenox Jewelers probe focuses on surveillance video of robbery

Updated 7:50 am, Sunday, April 14, 2013
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The bizarre robbery at a Black Rock Turnpike jewelry store Thursday night is the latest in a series of high-profile gem heists in Fairfield County in the last few years.

Yekutiel Zeevi, the 65-year-old owner of Y.Z. Jewelry in Westport, was killed in 2011 by a former Army ranger who made off with $300,000 in diamonds and touched off an international manhunt.

Fairfield jewelers Tim and Kim Donnelly, both 52, were killed during a brutal 2005 robbery at their downtown Post Road store by gunman Christopher DiMeo, who fled with jewelry before he was captured with accomplice Nicole Pearce a few days later.

And Lenox Jewelers, hit by thieves who stole as much as $5 million in jewelry and gems Thursday, has itself been targeted for two earlier heists over the last four years that have never been solved.

Fairfield police on Saturday said investigators in the latest Lenox robbery are focused on surveillance video from the store at 2379 Black Rock Turnpike.

Deputy Police Chief Chris Lyddy said investigators had not yet secured a clear picture of two masked and armed suspects who bound two store employees and fled with the loot.

"We have video evidence, and that is the focus of our attention," Lyddy said. "We have no good photos at this point. We are still combing through the video."

Lyddy said investigators are not ruling out an inside job, considering four store employees tied up at different locations -- two at the store and two at a Meriden apartment rented by the jewelry business -- managed to free themselves at roughly the same time.

He stressed the main focus of the probe is on the robbers, which include at least four masked and armed men.

"At this point, we are not dismissing any theory, but that is not our primary focus. They (the employees) are not the primary focus of our attention. We have other viable evidence," Lyddy said Saturday.

Two employees were tied up at the Fairfield store and two others were tied up at the Meriden apartment, where the hostage-taking/robbery began at about 8 p.m. Thursday night.

After closing the store, two male employees drove a BMW sedan to the Meriden apartment. As the two employees stepped from their car, they were confronted by four or five masked and armed men, police said.

The masked men escorted the two employees to the apartment and once inside found two more employees. They tied up those two store workers and two of the masked men remained in the apartment. The others brought the two Fairfield employees back to the store on Black Rock Turnpike.

They ordered the employes to disarm the store alarm with the security code opened the door. With guns trained on the employees' backs, police said the robbers forced them to open the safe in the back of the store using the code. They cleaned out the same, left the hostage employees bound and fled in the BMW, which was later abandoned on Mill Plain Road.

The Lenox robbery is not the first high-profile jewelry robbery in Fairfield County in the last few years.

The day before the 2005 robbery in which the Donnellys were killed here, DiMeo and then-girlfriend Pearce scouted the Post Road store. Pearce went to the shop the day of the killings, but stayed outside.

Authorities said the killings were part of a robbery spree the pair waged in late 2004 and early 2005 to support their heroin addictions. The robberies netted about $380,000.

DiMeo is serving a life prison sentence for the crime; Pearce died of cancer before she was sentenced for her role in the case.

Robert Levene, 41, had been inquiring about high-priced jewels in Connecticut and the Philadelphia area a few days before the 2011 Westport robbery. One of the places he visited was Zeevi's jewelry store in the Compo Shopping Center on Post Road East.

Levene first met with Zeevi and Ronen Konfino, an associate who had brought diamonds from New York. They talked for a half-hour and Levene said he would "sleep on it," referring to possibly purchasing six diamonds.

Levene returned the next night and 30 minutes into their discussion he pulled out a gun, shot both men, grabbed the diamonds and fled.

Before fleeing, he fired a second shot into Zeevi, police said, while Konfino survived the attack by playing dead.

Levene initially fled to Amsterdam, where officials said he fenced the diamonds for a third of their $300,000 retail value. He was later arrested in Spain and committed suicide in a Spanish prison shortly after his capture.