CHICAGO – A man arrested for stealing nearly $160,000 worth of diamonds from a Chicago jewelry store used a sleight of hand to pull off a theft that wasn't discovered for days, according to police.
And they say he's done it before in other cities over the past decade, prompting an industry publication to send out a "quiet warning" that urged retailers to "stop reading right now and go count your diamonds," the Chicago Tribune reported .
Tamaz Hubel, 67, of Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, was arrested Sunday while trying to board a plane to France from Miami-Dade International Airport. He's being held in Florida until an extradition hearing scheduled for July 10.
The Associated Press hasn't identified a lawyer who can comment on Hubel's behalf.
According to a police report, Hubel entered the store along Chicago's Jewelers Row district downtown earlier this month while the receptionist was out. He spoke in a thick accent, introducing himself as Henry from Canada and telling a salesperson he was shopping for his boss in Russia.
In a private room, the salesperson opened a box of diamonds that were individually wrapped in tissue.
The man pulled a personal price list from a briefcase, covered the box and grabbed two diamonds — a 2 carat worth about $26,000 and a 4 carat valued at roughly $133,000 — while the salesperson wasn't looking. Police say he replaced the wrapped diamonds with empty wrappers.
The theft wasn't discovered until four days later. It was nearly two weeks before Hubel was taken into custody on an arrest warrant.
Chicago police said they tracked and arrested Hubel with help from the Miami-Dade police, the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection.
Authorities say Hubel is accused in four other thefts, including three in Belgium and at least one in New York City in 2010. The diamonds he's suspected of stealing ranged in value from $4,500 to more than $130,000.
Hubel used the same method in each theft, police say.
Chicago police haven't said whether they've recovered the diamonds taken in the latest heist.
Public records and court documents show Hubel was born in country of Georgia and has used two last names, the Tribune reported. He has passports from the U.S. and Israel and records indicate he's lived in New York and Florida.
The warrant for his arrest lists Hubel's occupation as a jeweler.