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Daring Jewelry Theft Ring Has Hit In N.C., Feds Say

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Federal authorities say that jewelry store thieves have hit a dozen states, 50 stores, and have taken more than $5 million in gold watches and chains.

The FBI says professional thieves are targeting jewelry stores in East Coast malls -- hitting four times in North Carolina, including Raleigh's Triangle Town Center.

Surveillance video shows that what the FBI calls "The Gate Cutters Jewelry Crew" gets in and out of a store very quickly -- sometimes in less than four minutes.

"This is a very professional crew," said Chris Swecker, an FBI assistant director.

Operating in a five-man team, with one person serving as a lookout, these thieves have been busy, cutting through security gates in malls up and down the east coast.

Investigators believe they're based out of New York, but have hit as many as 12 states, including North Carolina.

According to the FBI, they hit the state four times, once at Fink's Jewelers inside Triangle Town Center Mall, on April 3.

"They cut the gate to get in," said Jim Sughrue, a Raleigh Police Department spokesman. "Once inside the store they took 135 items valued at $45,000 and they were gone by the time the crime was discovered."

The FBI says the Gate Cutters gang avoids high-dollar items and focuses on men's gold jewelry. Investigators say it's easier to sell.

Security at the Triangle Town Center is aware of the thieves. Management met with all of the jewelry stores and Crabtree Valley Mall is doing the same thing there.

The FBI says the thieves break in late at night or early in the morning when malls are open for movie crowds or mall walkers, but the stores are closed.

So far, no one's been hurt.

"With the holiday season coming up, we don't want to get into a situation where these individuals are forced into a corner and a violent situation in the mall," Swecker said.

Local FBI investigators will meet with mall security forces throughout the Triangle.

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