Rock-y relationship: Did bickering diamond theft suspects visit Whistler?
Whistler jeweller says accused thieves were in her store shortly before staff noticed missing rocks
A Whistler jeweller says an Ontario couple suspected of stealing a $10,000 diamond in New Brunswick visited her store shortly before staff noticed they had also been the victims of a jewelry swapping scam.
Grigori Zaharov and Natalia Feldman were set to appear in a Saint John courtroom Wednesday to answer to a charge of theft over $5,000.
The two were fingered after the victim of the New Brunswick heist posted a video of a man and woman who distracted his clerk at the time of the crime.
The man then switched a pricey stone for an impressive fake.
Across the country, Nicole Shannon says she read about the Saint John theft with particular interest. Shannon is one of the owners of Keir Fine Jewellery in Whistler village.
"We discovered that we had diamonds that were swapped somehow, because they were not diamonds any longer. And then we saw the story come out of New Brunswick and went 'Wow! Those people were in our store," she said.
"And we kind of went, well, that's probably how our diamonds got swapped."
'Probably don't know they've been switched'
Shannon says she has filed a report with Whistler RCMP, who are investigating, but did not want to go into detail about the theft for fear of jeopardizing the case.
She has also spoken with Wayne Smith, the victim of the Saint John heist.
Smith says the people who entered his store claimed they arrived on a cruise ship. They had a slick routine to distract his clerk; one Smith suspects they honed in stores from coast to coast.
"They were arguing, which the video doesn't show. But we had very clear video showing hands down that they took the stone. And then other people recognized it when they find out their stones are missing," Smith said.
"We think some jewellers probably don't even know they've been switched yet."
Since the couple's arrest, 70-year-old Zaharov and 44-year-old Feldman have been named as suspects in a Charlottetown caper which saw cubic zirconia subbed for $20,000 worth of diamonds last month.
They were arrested last week at their residence in Vaughan, Ont. and remanded into custody.
They were then transported to Saint John for a first appearance.
Little is known about the couple or what appears to be their May-December relationship.
An account in Feldman's name on a Russian online social media network includes pictures of a cross-country trip this summer: riding on B.C. Ferries; strolling along Victoria's inner-harbour, eating at a Squamish sushi restaurant.
She posted a shot of a car crossing the Lions Gate bridge with the hashtag #ThatsVancouverbabes.
Feldman also gave a 'like' to a picture of a woman sporting a diamond the size of a small novel on her ring finger.
There are also a number of shout-outs to Vladimir Putin.
Shannon says the community of Canadian jewellers is tight-knit. Like Smith, she says stores in other parts of B.C. and the rest of the country were also likely robbed.
"You do feel kind of violated," Shannon said. "It's been a very interesting experience. We have certainly learned a lot of lessons that we did not want to learn in this particular way."