- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

ASHVEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - A group of Detroit-area men who were charged in a jewelry store robbery in North Carolina could be linked to a string of store thefts throughout the eastern U.S., federal authorities said.

Police said the men stole an estimated $500,000 worth of jewelry and diamonds on Nov. 8 at Jared-Galleria of Jewelry in Asheville. Arrest warrants also accuse the suspects of threatening to use weapons, including mini sledge hammers and a gun.

According to a federal criminal complaint filed in Asheville, the “smash and grab” tactic has been used in store robberies from Michigan to North Carolina, and authorities have examined 50 similar thefts that occurred in 2014 and 2015.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline in Detroit said federal investigators are aware of the Asheville case and any possible ties are under investigation.

“Over the last two years, what we’re seeing is that individuals from the Detroit area are travelling around the country to do smash and grabs of various jewelry stores,” Graveline said. “We have 30 people right now who have been indicted from the Detroit area who have gone to other states. Usually they work in groups of four to six.”

Graveline said several people in the Detroit cases have pleaded guilty.

The five suspects in the Asheville heist, including a 16-year-old boy, each face two felony charges: robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.

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Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, https://www.citizen-times.com

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