What Happens to the Jewelry Stolen in a High-Profile Heist?

Retrieving these objects can be very difficult

Crime scene
The aftermath of a heist can be as much work as a heist itself.
Richard Bell/Unsplash

Over the summer, a group of thieves broke into a Brink’s truck at a California rest stop and stole 22 bags of jewelry. The value of the stolen property is the subject of a lawsuit — but it’s not a small amount, whether that number is $10 million or $100 million. But having millions of dollars’ worth of stolen property is not the same thing as having millions of dollars in hand — and thieves with a focus on valuables face an additional step in getting paid.

In a new article for the Los Angeles Times, Daniel Miller and Richard Winton explored what might have happened to the stolen property from the Brink’s heist. They note that the experts they spoke with — from reporters who have written about past heists to workers in the jewelry trade — tended to think that the stolen items were resold quickly.

The word “fence” has been used to refer to someone engaged in reselling stolen property for hundreds of years. That, in turn, might help explain why so many people quoted in the Times piece were sure about what would happen next — basically, that there is a process one follows for this kind of thing.

It isn’t just jewelry or art that has a substantial illicit market; things like truffles also have their own system associated with them. But jewelry has, as Miller and Winton explain in their article, one very different quality — it can, in theory, be broken down into its component elements. The pieces of a gem-encrusted gold ring could be separated and sold in different places, for instance.

It’s one of the reasons why retrieving certain stolen goods can be so hard — the form in which they’re resold might not be anything like the form in which they were taken.

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