[MSN] FBI announces $50,000 reward for jewel theft suspect

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Tue Dec 21 22:24:16 CET 2004

FBI announces $50,000 reward for jewel theft suspect

By Mary Anne Ostrom

Devin L. Smith played professional football in Milan, was a fixture on the
San Francisco club scene and drove a Hummer. Today, he's wanted in the
biggest jewelry theft in San Francisco history.

On Monday, the FBI announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to his
arrest in one of the city's most brazen robberies. Authorities say the
jewels, stolen last year in broad daylight only a block from Union Square,
are worth as much as $10 million; the jeweler estimates the retail value
could be closer to $20 million.

Smith, 42, who also uses the first name Troy, has taken authorities on a
frustrating and fruitless chase since April 6, 2003. That's when Smith, his
older brother Dino, and a childhood friend allegedly broke into an adjacent
restaurant just before midnight and cut a hole through the wall into Lang
Antique and Estate Jewelers.

They tripped the security alarms, but police who responded never saw them.
Masked and armed, the burglars hid until the staff opened the Sutter Street
store the next morning, held four employees at gunpoint, and ordered them to
open the safes, authorities said. They filled garbage bags with more than
1,000 pieces of jewelry -- about 90 percent of the store's inventory,
authorities said. Many were one-of-a-kind pieces, including Art Deco designs
in platinum and pieces dating from the 19th century. Most of the jewels have
not been found.

And neither has Devin Smith.

He teased authorities a year ago, when, after being featured on "America's
Most Wanted," police say he wrote a letter to the show's host complaining he
couldn't afford a good lawyer or get a fair trial. According to a copy
obtained by the Los Angeles Times, he wrote "I'd rather take my chances with
hypertension as a fugitive."

San Francisco police inspector Dan Gardner said Monday that the letter
contained several different postmarks from the United States. He said they
know Smith likes to gamble -- he's been to Las Vegas since the heist -- and
travel extensively.

Gardner estimates that about $700,000 worth of jewels, with Lang's tags
still attached, were recovered when Smith's childhood friend was arrested at
a San Francisco motel six weeks after the robbery. But Gardner wouldn't
comment on whether Smith is financing his fugitive lifestyle with the rest:
"You'll have to ask him."

Mark Zimmelman, owner of Lang's, said he is always on the lookout for the
stolen goods. "My feeling is they haven't been sold or they are way out of
the country," he said.

Among other crimes, the Smiths are charged with robbery, kidnapping and
conspiracy. Both faced federal arrest warrants when they fled.

Zimmelman knew the Smith brothers years before the heist. A decade earlier
they sold him some jewels, which turned out to be stolen from the home of a
Nicaraguan with drug ties, and for which they were convicted of possessing
stolen property. They were once arrested and accused of planning to kidnap a
San Francisco night club owner; police found them in full body armor and
with a cache of weapons. The charges were dropped on a legal technicality,
Devin Smith's attorney at the time said.

Authorities allege that the Smiths planned the Lang heist in retribution
because Zimmelman had testified against them in the trial over the
Nicaraguan's stolen jewels.

Dino Smith was arrested in June, after the police followed his girlfriend to
New York. He was taken into custody as he got off the A train in Queens and
now is in San Francisco County Jail awaiting a Superior Court hearing this
week. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

The FBI warns that Devin Smith is armed and dangerous.

Zimmelman thinks his store was targeted simply "because like Willie Sutton
went to the bank because there was money, they knew we had jewels." Although
his stolen jewels were insured, he is hoping the FBI reward will eventually
lead to their recovery.

"They are quite the characters," Zimmelman said of the Smith brothers. "I
remember them as highly articulate, urbane, well-dressed -- about the last
guys you'd think are gangsters." 


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