NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A source Wednesday night said investigators are looking at the possibility of an inside job in their probe of a robbery at a Diamond District jewelry store.
Investigators found that an employee of the store that was robbed had a criminal record, and also had some financial troubles, the source said.
The search for the men who committed the mid-afternoon gunpoint robbery continued Wednesday.
It happened around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Watch Standard jewelry store located on the eighth floor of 23 W. 47th St. Police said a man posing as a courier was buzzed into the store while a second man stood outside as a lookout.
“He had a white button down shirt with a dark tie. He walks up the stairs to the eighth floor and he had said he had two letters that had to be delivered,” said NYPD Deputy Chief William Aubry.
But once inside, investigators said he pulled a gun on four employees and demanded they empty the safe. That’s when the owner walked in and detectives said the suspect pistol-whipped him with the butt of the gun.
Police sources believe the duo then made their way down the building stairs and escaped into the crowd, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
Police locked down the area and later ordered people to evacuate. An Instagram video showed a SWAT team on a rooftop and workers evacuating nearby buildings under the watchful eye of police.
“They say there’s a robbery and the guys are loose,” said Diamond District worker Yankel Ablonsky. “Basically asked everyone to back up. They want to protect the civilians.”
Many were stunned by the brazen daylight robbery.
“We’re dealing with high-end merchandise,” said Penyamin Keisoglu, whose own store is just yards away. “God forbid anyone gets robbed, it’s the end.”
“Gutsy, greed, stupidity,” said Diamond District worker Daryl Dunn. “Little bit of everything wrapped into one.”
The neighborhood where the robbery occurred is arguably the most secure block in the city, CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported, cameras are everywhere, some can be seen, others can’t.
There are also armed guards, many in plain clothes.
“You can walk down the street and wave. You can be sure that your picture is being taken,” Michael Grumet, Business Improvement District, Executive Director, explained.
The cameras didn’t deter the thieves who pulled off the brazen heist. Now, detectives are questioning everyone from deliverymen to current and former employees.
Robberies in the district are rare, but do happen. In 2009, two armed men posing as Hasidic Jews robbed a diamond import company.
“There are cameras within each jewelry exchange,” Richard Friedman, I. Friedman & Son, explained.
Friedman said that he isn’t worried about his merchandise or his customers. Merchants in exchanges like his share the expense for security.
“If we have to show the color of a diamond, we all walk outside and trade right here in the front window,” Richard Winick, Manny Winick & Son, explained.
Dealers like Winick showed CBS2 diamond valued at several hundred thousand dollars. With the holiday season around the corner Winick and others say customers should not be deterred from shopping on 47th Street.
Police released surveillance images of the suspects. With millions in jewels on display, there are countless cameras in the area, including one operated by police just outside the building.
The first suspect is described by police as a black man, approximately 6 feet tall between the ages of 40 and 50. Police said he was wearing a dark trench coat, light-colored slacks and a tweed colored Kangol hat.
The second suspect is described by police as a tall black man between the ages of 30 and 40. Police said he was wearing a red baseball cap, True Religion jeans, a black zipper hoodie and black sneakers.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS, visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
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