NJ men among ‘construction’ crew accused in $2M diamond heists
A crew of men from New Jersey and New York has been accused of two armed jewelry heists months apart in Manhattan, worth over $2 million — with an approach like something out of a movie.
Federal agents say the robbers dressed as construction workers to make their entrances and getaways easier, in holding up two separate high-end jewelry stores — one of which takes customers by appointment only.
Frank DiPietro, of Red Bank, Vincent Spagnuolo, of Monmouth Beach, and Samuel Sorce, of Florham Park, were among five men arrested on Tuesday.
Also facing federal charges were two New Yorkers: Vincent Cerchio, of Queens, and Michael Sellick, of Long Island.
Each of the men have been charged with Hobbs Act robbery, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery and one count of brandishing a firearm during and in connection with a crime of violence.
💠 Armed robbery while employees changed street-level jewelry display
DiPietro and Spagnuolo, both 65, along with Cerchio and Sellick were charged in connection with the Jan. 3 robbery of a store on Madison Avenue in Midtown.
Among diamond-laden pieces stolen that day were a 73-carat necklace, a 6-carat ring and a 17-carat pair of earrings, federal prosecutors said.
According to a criminal complaint, the first company targeted has a penthouse office
in a building on Madison Avenue and admits customers with appointments, only.
However, workers routinely swap out select items of jewelry in a street-level display case — within the same one-hour span most weekday mornings.
The day of the January heist, around 10:20 a.m., an employee removed the necklace, ring and earrings from a safe, bringing them to the lobby in a black tray and disabling a display case alarm.
Two armed men wearing neon orange construction jackets and masks immediately entered the building’s lobby.
The first man, holding a gun, told the jewelry employee something along the lines of “Give it to me” — after which the second robber ordered the worker into a lobby closet.
Federal agents have said that a pickup truck and SUV seen that day outside the first targeted store have been traced back to Spagnuolo and Cerchio — though the SUV was seen the morning of the robbery with a NY license plate that was reported stolen, shortly after.
Cell phone records for both men, as well as DiPietro and Selleck, have placed them all in the immediate area at the time of the robbery.
At least two of the men also appeared to be seen on surveillance footage from a nearby deli in the hours before the January robbery.
💠 Second armed jewelry robbery involves two cars registered in NJ, feds say
Sorce has been accused as one of the robbers in the May 20 heist at a store in lower Manhattan on Elizabeth Street.
In the second incident — two armed men, wearing construction worker vests, entered the store as it opened for the day, stealing pieces from a display case before fleeing into a car.
Members of the New York Police Department responded within minutes, pursuing a black Infiniti QX30 that had been spotted as a potential getaway car.
Officers found the car, ditched several blocks away, with its actual NJ license plates inside and a construction vest like one that the robbers had been wearing.
The NYPD then caught up to a man on a nearby street who appeared to match the description of the would-be getaway driver, seen running from the vehicle.
A photo of that man taken by officers was run through a law enforcement database and came back a match for Sorce.
Sorce had separately faced charges in Hoboken this year, stemming from a street fight last October. The brawl was caught on video, which went viral on social media.
Both vehicles seen in the area of the second targeted store on the day of the May heist were then traced to NJ family or associates of Sorce, according to a criminal complaint.
“These five defendants allegedly carried out brazen and dangerous daylight robberies of jewelry stores in Manhattan, stealing about $2 million in jewelry at gunpoint,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a written release.
He continued “Dressed as construction workers, the defendants allegedly sought to blend into the busy streets around them before pointing guns at the jewelry stores’ employees and carrying out about $2 million in stolen diamonds and other valuable pieces.”
As reported by the NY Daily News, the NYPD believes the men are connected to the Lucchese crime family.
“They staked them out very extensively, pre- and post-incident," NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said of both robberies, as quoted in the Daily News report.