Nine Philadelphia men have been indicted for allegedly plotting a string of smash-and-grab jewelry store robberies that netted millions in luxury loot. Four of the men are accused of stealing a $2 million jewel known as the Liberty Bell Ruby from a Wilmington, Del. jewelry store.
According to an indictment unsealed Thursday, Darrell Williams, 43, David Story, 45, Rufus Lawson, 47, and Willie Hawkins Smith, 22, stole the rarity Nov. 1, 2011 during the robbery of Stuart Kingston Galleries. The Liberty Bell replica, sculpted from the world's largest mined ruby, has still not been recovered.
To commit the crime, the crew allegedly rented a white U-Haul cargo van and concealed the tags with a stolen New York license plate. Investigators said they used a second rental car, a 2012 Nissan Sentra, as a post from which to conduct counter-surveillance during the robbery.
Authorities said the foursome burst into the store brandishing handguns and used duct tape and zip ties to restrain employees. They allegedly smashed glass display cases with hammers, forced employees to open a vault and stole hundreds of pieces of jewelry valued at nearly $4.5 million, including the $2 million ruby.
Court documents claim the suspects, along with at least five other men, were part of a high-end robbery ring responsible for at least eight other jewelry store smash-and-grabs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Authorities allege the reputed robbers had expensive tastes, favoring luxury wristwatches from brands like Rolex and Breitling. Members of the crew would case businesses by researching them on the Internet and visiting the stores, according to court documents.
They would then allegedly enter the stores, armed with handguns, and use hammers to smash glass display cases. Investigators said they also often concealed their faces with masks, bandannas and even Islamic burqas and hijabs.
The charges were announced this week through two indictments - one filed in Delaware and unsealed Thursday and a second, superseding indictment filed Friday in Pennsylvania.
Also charged are Kenneth Williams, 51, Anthony Lockwood, 36, Derrick Sherrill, 41, Brian Sheed, 21, and Amin Abdur-Rahe Shabazz, 22, all of Philadelphia.
In addition to the Stuart Kingston robbery, members of the crew are accused of plotting to steal more than $3.5 million in jewelry during robberies of Govberg Jewelers in Ardmore, Bernie Robbins in Saint Davids, Pa., Jay Roberts Jewelers in Marlton, N.J. , Hamilton Jewelers in Lawrenceville, N.J., Ultra Diamonds in Pottstown and King of Prussia’s Torneau, which they allegedly robbed three times on three separate occasions.
Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or email@example.com. Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.
Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.