BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — Five people have been arrested in the robbery of more than $4 million in jewelry, watches and diamonds from a Connecticut store in an elaborate heist that began with the kidnapping of store employees more than 40 miles away, federal authorities said Thursday.
The defendants are four men from Pennsylvania and another from New York City who conducted extensive planning, including surveillance of the victims and a practice run a week before the crime, according to an FBI affidavit.
A group of men wearing masks and gloves broke into the apartment in Meriden on April 11, and bound and gagged four people, including the manager and another employee of a Lenox Jewelry store in Fairfield. The two employees were then taken at gunpoint in the manager's BMW and driven about 40 miles to the store, where they were forced to open the door and to use their access codes to open the safe, authorities said.
One of the masked men told the store manager they had been following them for months, the FBI affidavit said, and that he "drove really fast."
Among the defendants is 31-year-old Timothy Forbes, who was arrested at his home in Allentown, Pa., on May 8 on allegations he was involved in a July 2012 jewelry store robbery in York, Pa. He had $13,100 in $100 bills and a Connecticut lottery ticket purchased in March, the FBI said. He remained in custody Thursday.
The other defendants are William Davis, 25, and Jeffrey Houston, both of Allentown; Kasam Hennix, 39, of Easton, Pa.; and Christopher Gay, 27, of the Bronx. Houston and Gay made a federal court appearance in Bridgeport while Davis and Hennix appeared before a judge in Allentown. All four were ordered detained.
Each of the defendants is charged with kidnapping, robbery and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. Attorneys for Houston and Gay did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. It wasn't clear who was representing the other defendants.
"Fortunately these individuals were arrested before committing similar crimes that place the lives of innocent persons at risk," U.S. Marshal Joseph Faughnan said.
The victims reported they were restrained in the back of the store during the robbery. They were able to free themselves and call police after the thieves took off in their car. The BMW was found in Fairfield the next day.
The victims told authorities the robbers appeared to communicate with cellphones or walkie-talkies. The two non-employees held in Meriden were released one minute after the two suspects left the Fairfield jewelry store, police said.