New Brunswick

Saint John jewelry theft draws similar stories from stores Canada-wide

The owner of a Saint John jewelry store thinks he was the target of professional thieves after a pair allegedly took off with a $10,000 diamond.

Jewelry stores across country share info about $10K diamond theft suspects

The owner of a Saint John jewelry store believes he was the target of professional thieves after a middle-aged couple came in asking to look at diamonds and soon after, staff discovered a $10,000 stone was swapped for a fake. 3:33

Handling loose gems is a lot different at W. Smith & Co. Fine Jewellers since thieves managed to steal a $10,000 diamond.

Photo ID is required from the potential buyer and no one can leave until the Saint John store verifies it's locking up the right gem.

Caution may be paramount, but store owner Wayne Smith at least has comfort knowing his store wasn't the only one targeted by the alleged thieves. Since releasing security footage showing the theft, Smith said he's been called by jewellers and police from across Canada.

"I've had calls from Vancouver, I've had calls from P.E.I., I've had calls from Ontario, and I've had calls from the Montreal police," said Smith.

Police looked at cruise passenger IDs

Wayne Smith believes his jewelry store was the target of professional thieves. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)
Last Friday, a couple entered Smith's store in the Brunswick Square mall and began inspecting loose stones. Security footage shows the man swiftly swap a one-carat diamond for a cubic zirconia knock-off as a staff member turns to pick up a sizing chart. Later, the couple can be seen preparing to make a similar swap with another, larger diamond.

After seeing his story, Smith said store owners recognized the couple and looked closer at their stock. "[They] went back [to] their inventory and went 'Oh my God, I lost a stone' or 'I lost two stones'" said Smith.

Police in Saint John confirmed they had gone through identification photos of cruise ship passengers, but refused to rule anything out. 

Sgt. Charles Breen said a person of interest was being sought. Breen said he didn't want to tip off a suspect and would not provide any details about where police were searching.

Montreal police know them, Smith says

Smith said the alleged thieves swapped a diamond for a cubic zirconia. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)
Smith said he has been contacted by the Montreal police, who told him they were investigating the couple and know their names. Smith is hoping the security footage he released will be enough to track them down and have them charged.

When Smith first came forward with his story, he urged other jewellers to ignore feelings of embarrassment about being scammed. "They're professionals," he said while comparing getting duped by the pair to falling for a phone scam.

"If we work together as a team, we could have known a lot ahead," said Smith, who believes passing on suspicions or security footage to the public could be the key to preventing cross-country thefts.

Still, even if a store owner isn't willing to go public, Smith hopes jewellers will simply tell any similar story about the couple to Saint John police.

About the Author

Matthew Bingley is a CBC reporter based in Saint John.