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Jewelry and Gem Program

 

Introducing the Program

Jewelry and Gem Program GraphicJewelry and gem theft? You might ask, why is the FBI involved? For three good reasons:

1. The thefts usually go over state…and even national…boundaries—so they need a federal agency with offices across the nation and overseas to investigate.

2. Increasingly, they are plotted by criminal enterprises or “theft groups”—that likewise require a federal agency with tough laws and with offices across the U.S. and overseas to bust.

3. These theft groups are often involved in other kinds of organized crime activities that are already under scrutiny by FBI investigators.

In fact, the FBI's Jewelry and Gem (JAG) Program was initiated in 1992 when thefts from jewelry retailers and robberies of traveling jewelry salespersons spiked all across the United States.

Animated images of jewelry and gems.What are the costs associated with JAG thefts? Huge: the jewelry industry loses 100 million dollars each year—and, because the crimes are often committed with weapons, sometimes they result in serious physical injury or death too.

What specific criminal enterprises are involved? Back in 1992, we were dealing mostly with Colombian Gem Thieves. Now we see more diversified South American Theft Groups targeting traveling salespersons, and some Balkan groups and African American street gangs who target retail stores--organizing "smash and grab" armed robberies. The street gangs often branch out into other types of major theft while they plot “big money” jewel thefts: things like clothing boosting, computer software and supplies, over-the-counter drugs, infant formula, and various other items.

How do “fences” play into the crimes? Of course they’re integral to the success of the crime…and also serve to move the jewels across state and national lines and to make money laundering arrangements from city to city. Commonly, jewelry is stolen in one city, fenced in another, and the proceeds are then laundered in another city or country. And many fences will travel across the country and around the world to buy the stolen jewels—we call these specialists “flying fences.”

The most popular “fencing” cities? Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, and New York City.

Bottom line: These theft rings are sophisticated; they’re organized; they’re violent—and they require a sophisticated and multi-jurisdictional response. That’s what the FBI provides--giving law enforcement agencies and the jewelry industry a means to combat crime problems in the jewelry trade in a unified and coordinated approach.

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