FAIRFIELD, Conn. — A gang of thieves made off with more than $4 million in loot from a Fairfield jewelry store after an elaborate heist that began with the kidnapping of two store employees at an apartment more than 40 miles away, Connecticut police said Friday.
Four or five men wearing masks and gloves broke into the apartment in Meriden on Thursday, and bound and gagged four people, including the manager and another employee of a Lenox Jewelry store in Fairfield, police said.
The employees were then taken at gunpoint in the manager's BMW and driven about 40 miles from Meriden to the store in Fairfield, police said.
"We're not sure yet whether the (robbers) followed them home or were lying in wait for them there," Deputy Police Chief Christopher Lyddy told the Hearst Connecticut Media Group. "The men were held inside the apartment bound and gagged for a period of time and then two friends arrived and they were also bound and gagged."
Once at the store, the employees were forced to open the door and to use their access codes to open the safe, Lyddy said.
The victims reported they were restrained in the back of the store during the robbery. They were able to free themselves and call police Thursday night, after the thieves took off in their car.
"We were hostages," Antoine Abedui, the store manager, told WTNH-TV. "You don't know what could go wrong, and you're just praying for this to just end."
The BMW was found in Fairfield on Friday after police received a tip.
The suspects were believed to be communicating with each other and coordinating their efforts during the robbery, police said. The two non-employees held in Meriden were released one minute after the two suspects left the Fairfield jewelry store, police said.
Abedui said he believed the robbery was the work of professionals.
"Been through robberies before because of the nature of my work," he said. "Usually it's 30-seconds to a minute robbery. This was a two-hour robbery."
Thursday's theft was the third robbery at the store in the past three years, police said.
"I would venture to guess it's one of the largest dollar-value crimes that has ever occurred in Fairfield," Lyddy said.