From Prosthetics to Prison (2008)
Where: Graff Diamonds, London, England
When: Aug. 6, 2009
How much: Approximately $65 million
At just before 5 p.m., two men wearing suits entered the store. They looked the part of just about any other wealthy men looking to buy expensive gems and jewelry, but really, their looks said nothing about them at all.
That's because they had visited a professional makeup artist, who altered their skin color, applied prosthetics to change the shapes of their faces and ultimately made them appear to be entirely different people.
They put their altered appearances to use by waltzing brazenly into the store, unveiling handguns and threatening employees, who hurriedly unlocked display cases. In all, the men made off with more than 40 pieces of jewelry valued at a whopping $65 million.
They exited the store, fired at least one gunshot to frighten and confuse witnesses, and then drove away. A short while later, they switched vehicles (and fired another shot for good measure) and sped away from the scene.
But the robbers committed a forehead-slapping blunder. During their hasty escape, they left a cell phone in one of their getaway cars. Police used numbers on the phone to track down the men, and on Aug. 20, authorities charged Solomon Beyene and Craig Calderwood with conspiracy to commit robbery and attempted murder, among other offenses.
From there, the police made more and more arrests, totaling 10 men in all. And although they apprehended the perpetrators, they never recovered the stolen merchandise.
So whether the thieves are using a sledgehammer or a really sincere smile, there are at least a couple of things the big diamond heists have in common. First, a successful heist typically requires inside help. After all, we're talking about the most highly guarded carbon in the world. And second, while the thieves may be caught, the diamonds are almost never found.
Learn more about diamonds, diamond thieves and other related topics below.
More Great Links
- BBC News. "Two Charged Over $40m Jewel Raid." Aug. 20, 2009. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/8212981.stm
- BBC News. "Brinks Mat Gold: The Unsolved Mystery." Apr. 15, 2000. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/714289.stm
- BBC News. "Tenth Arrest Over $40m Jewel Raid." Oct. 15, 2009. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/8309010.stm
- BBC News. "Great Heists of Our Time." Feb. 18, 2002. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1011307.stm
- Davies, Lizzy. "Armed Men in Wigs Pull Off $70m Robbery at Top Paris Jewelry Store." The Guardian. Dec. 5, 2008. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/06/armed-robbery-winston-jewellery-paris
- Edwards, Richard. "Graff Diamonds $40 Million Jewelry Robbery is Britain's Biggest Gem Heist." The Telegraph. Aug. 11, 2009. (Nov. 16, 2011) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/6010698/Graff-Diamonds-40-million-jewellery-robbery-is-Britains-biggest-gem-heist.html
- Ferran, Lee. "'Ocean's' Inspiration: Greatest Real-Life Heists of All Time." ABC News. May 31, 2007. (Nov. 16, 2011) http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=3222315
- Hughes, Mark. "Jewel Thieves Wore Latex Disguises in $40m Raid." The Independent. Aug. 14, 2009. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/jewel-thieves-wore-latex-disguises-in-16340m-raid-1771864.html
- Reynolds, Christopher. "That Rembrandt Rip-Off at the Ritz? Small Potatoes." LA Times. Aug. 15, 2011. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/15/travel/la-tr-rembrandt-ritz-ripoff-20110815
- Schpoliansky, Christophe. "Daring Diamond Heist in Downtown Paris." ABC News. Dec. 5, 2008. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=6400551&page=1#.TsKDjMPTqW4
- Summers, Chris. "In Search of Thieves' Gold." BBC News. Jan. 26, 2004. (Nov. 16, 2011) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/3394087.stm
- The Telegraph. "Jewel Heist: Graff Robbers 'Sent Gems Abroad.'" Aug. 12, 2009. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/6014623/Jewel-heist-Graff-robbers-sent-gems-abroad.html
- Thompson, Tony. "Curse of the Brinks-Mat Heist Claims its Latest Victim." Guardian. Nov. 24, 2001.
Tran, Mark. "Graff Diamonds Robber Aman Kassaye Jailed for 23 Years." The Guardian. Aug. 6, 2010. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/aug/06/graff-diamonds-robber-jailed
The gangster most known for facilitating the creation of the modern American Mafia, he was the head of organized crime in New York City in the 1930s.