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Cops: 4 caught after Manhasset jewelry heist

With one robbery suspect in custody, the search

With one robbery suspect in custody, the search on Hewlett Street in Little Neck continues. (Oct. 14, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

In a brazen daylight robbery Friday, four masked men in blue painter's coveralls got out of a dark Cadillac sedan on Northern Boulevard and walked into an Americana Manhasset mall jewelry store wielding guns and sledgehammers, police said.

The men entered London Jewelers in the luxury mall shortly before 2 p.m., police said, ordering 13 employees and one customer to the ground before smashing a case full of watches and making off with the loot in a second vehicle, a black Cadillac Escalade SUV driven by a different driver. The gang of men left the people in the store shaken, but unhurt.

Within two hours, four of the six suspects were captured by Nassau County and New York City police, who deployed helicopters and dogs in the search. Two of them were arrested at the Lake Success Golf Club; two were arrested nearby on Hewlett Street just north of the Grand Central Parkway in Queens. Two more suspects, the driver of the Cadillac sedan and one of the men who entered the store, remain at large.

Police did not recover the stolen luxury watches, and did not know the total value, said Nassau Det. Lt. Kevin Smith.

An employee of the nearby Escada clothing store called the day "a Friday we won't forget." The Americana Manhasset is home to a quarter-mile stretch of luxury retailers including Hermes, Tiffany & Co., Versace, Prada, Frette, Louis Vuitton and Fendi.

"This is very unusual," said a salesman in the Ermenegildo Zegna store who did not want to be named. "You don't even see shoplifting here."

London Jewelers is a series of connected storefronts organized by merchandise and brand, such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and David Yurman. The robbers targeted the watch gallery.

Smith said two of the four men displayed guns, but never fired them. The other two carried sledgehammers and shattered the case.

The four robbers exited as they arrived, running across the narrow parking lot through an opening in a row of chest-high shrubs and into the waiting Escalade.

Smith said the Escalade headed east on Northern Boulevard before turning south onto Searingtown Road and entering the westbound lanes of the Long Island Expressway. The driver lost control of the SUV and hit a barrier, he said, before running off.

Meanwhile, the employees of London Jewelers sought refuge in the Donna Karan store next door, said Debbie Berk, a saleswoman at Donna Karan.

"They all came screaming out of the store," she said. "It was mass hysteria. They were all in shock. They were screaming, 'Robbers! Guns! Sledgehammer!' "

Hours after the dramatic robbery, Berk managed to find some humor in the events.

"Afterward, I heard someone talking on the phone," Berk said. "He said, 'honey, I was hoping to pick up your watch today, but I don't think they'll let me in the store.' I just had to laugh."

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