- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

MARION TOWNSHIP, Minn. (AP) - Investigators believe jewelry thieves followed their victims for several hundred miles from a trade show in Chicago before pulling off a $500,000 heist in less than 2 minutes at a rest stop in southeast Minnesota.

The smash-and-grab robbery occurred early Monday morning at a rest stop along Interstate 90, according to Olmsted County sheriff’s officials.

“They were waiting for a dark, remote location, and they found one at the rest stop,” sheriff’s Capt. Scott Behrns said. “We’re dealing with some heavy hitters. In less than 90 seconds, this crime was committed and done, which indicates a high level of expertise, in my opinion.”

A diamond dealer and six employees were traveling in a passenger van when they pulled into the Marion Township rest stop shortly after midnight, after driving about 350 miles from Chicago. The dealer and four others got out of the vehicle and went inside the restrooms, while two others stayed in the van with the valuables, authorities said.

“Another van pulled up behind, and four, what we believe are males, got out and smashed the windows and grabbed three or four suitcases containing jewelry and loose diamonds,” Behrns said.

The driver of the victims’ van put the vehicle in reverse and hit the side of the suspects’ van. The suspects, wearing black hooded sweatshirt, sped away on I-90. Authorities found the suspects had ditched their van about a mile away, Behrns said. But the suspects were nowhere to be found. No weapon was seen during the heist, he said.

The suspects apparently waited for the right time and location to carry out their crime, Behrns said.

Local authorities have contacted the FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to help investigate. The loss value could climb once the dealer does a complete inventory of his jewelry and precious metals, Behrns said.

Authorities would not disclose the dealer’s identity or destination.

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Information from: Post-Bulletin, https://www.postbulletin.com

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