Burglars invaded a Diamond Bar mini-mall over the weekend, stealing a safe that contained more than $260,000 in cash and merchandise, authorities said.
It was the third time in less than a month that burglars have carried off or emptied the contents of large safes in businesses in the eastern San Gabriel Valley.
Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives said the crimes appear to be the work of the same "professional ring," but they have no suspects.
In the latest incident, thieves entered Tlaloc Jewelers on Diamond Bar Boulevard and made off with a five-foot tall safe containing more than $250,000 worth of jewels and $10,000 in cash, detectives said. They also hit Custom Designs By Rubi, a bridal shop, and took $1,600 in merchandise.
The burglars dragged the large safe out a rear door and 40 yards along a concrete walk behind the mini-mall, leaving a scratchy trail on the cement. The heavy, armored container was then apparently skidded down a 20-foot dirt embankment to an awaiting truck.
"Based on the operation, I would say it would take from four to six people to commit this theft," Detective Richard Berner said.
The thieves sliced alarm system wires before cutting a hole in the roof, crawling through a common attic, and lowering themselves to the floor of the shops on a rope, deputies said.
The shop owners discovered the thefts when they arrived on Monday. Bridal shop owner Rubi Stokes said one of the burglars left a visible set of handprints near the top of her wall and a single footprint.
"They were really big handprints and the footprint was very, very large," she said.
On Labor Day, burglars cut a hole in the roof of a Walnut tennis shoe warehouse and took a 500-pound safe containing more than $600. They also made off with more than $30,000 worth of shoes.
As in the Diamond Bar burglaries, the thieves disabled the alarms, cut a hole in the roof and used a rope to reach the floor.
"It might have been a test for this one," a detective said while at the scene of the Diamond Bar burglaries.
Despite the similarities, there was one difference in that graffiti--including the names of local gang members and a gang name--was found by investigators near the roof and on a rear wall in Walnut. Sheriff's investigators believe the scrawls were a ruse.
"It's unusual for a gang to put their name on this type of incident," Deputy Mario Estrada said.
A week before the Labor Day incident, burglars broke into a boathouse at Bonelli County Regional Park in San Dimas and made off with $12,000 from a safe. Investigators also believe that graffiti was also intentionally used there.