Couple stole $200K in furs, cops say | PostIndependent.com

Couple stole $200K in furs, cops say

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times
An image from surveillance video shows two suspects in multiple fur thefts in Aspen, Vail, Denver and New York.
CBS 4 Denver/Courtesy image |

A couple who allegedly stole a $95,000 fur coat from an Aspen shop on Valentine’s Day likely stole another $100,000 worth of furs from two other downtown stores the same day, a police detective said last week.

The man and woman were caught on video at one of the Aspen stores and bear a striking resemblance not only to a couple videotaped stealing furs around the same time in Denver but also to a couple caught on surveillance video stealing furs in New York City late last year.

“I do think it’s the same couple,” said Aspen Police Detective Rick Magnuson. “(Video from) the New York thefts shows the same man and woman as in Denver and Aspen and the Yves Solomon video.”

Yves Solomon, located at the corner of Mill Street and Hopkins Avenue, captured the only Aspen surveillance video of the couple, though they probably hit the two other downtown stores on Valentine’s Day, too, Magnuson said. Video surveillance at the other two stores, Dennis Basso and Mark Richards, was not working at the time, he said.

The Solomon video, which is relatively poor in quality, shows a bearded man wearing a gray knit cap, black-framed glasses and tan boots entering the store with a woman with short, dark hair. They follow another shopper into the store and are followed not long after by a man in a blue jacket, who quickly chats up the lone salesperson in the store.

“I think the guy in the blue jacket is with them,” Magnuson said. “He’s distracting her.”

Meanwhile, the couple spends a little time at each end of the store before leaving. The man in the blue jacket exits soon after, Magnuson said.

The man likely wadded the coats up and stuffed them under his sweater and jacket at either end of the store, though it’s difficult to see because the video is dark. Video surveillance from one of the New York thefts is of much higher quality and clearly shows the man’s modus operandi. He can be clearly seen rolling up a fur coat and stuffing it behind his back and under his thick clothing in the New York video.

Missing after the couple left Yves Solomon were a brown Russian sable fur coat valued at $46,150 and a mink jacket valued at $7,450, Magnuson said.

A manager at Yves Solomon declined to comment on the thefts Friday.

Also on Valentine’s Day, the couple likely stole three fur coats from Mark Richards Fine Outerwear, 427 E. Cooper Ave., Magnuson said. That haul included a gray Russian sable coat valued at $28,950, a blue chinchilla valued at $10,500 and a velvet-sheared mink with sable trim valued at $9,400, the detective said.

Mark Goodman, co-owner of Mark Richards, said Friday he was working Valentine’s Day but was busy with another couple when the bearded man with glasses and the dark-haired woman entered the store.

“At that moment, I was the only person in the store,” he said. “I was with another couple at the time at the back of the store, and they walked in with other people.”

Goodman said he saw the couple from across the room but was focused on the others in the store and didn’t speak with them.

“They came and went pretty fast,” he said. “I noticed (the theft) right after they walked out.”

That’s because the distinctive blue chinchilla jacket hanging near the front of the store was gone, along with the other two coats and the hangers that held them, Goodman said.

“They were smooth, whoever did it,” he said.

In 14 years in Aspen, Goodman said he’s only experienced one other theft, which occurred about 10 years ago when someone grabbed a fur and ran.

The latest incident, however, has “totally” changed his sales outlook, he said.

“Everyone who comes in, you have to make contact with them,” Goodman said.

The $95,000 coat — a silver sable — was stolen the same day from Dennis Basso at The Little Nell. In that theft, a man entered and triggered the store’s anti-theft alarm but told employees he had a steel plate in his leg that frequently set off such alerts, Aspen Police Detective Jeff Fain said at the time.

The man stuffed the coat under his jacket and walked out, again setting off the anti-theft protection. But employees didn’t pay any attention because of his previous story, Fain said. The man likely had an anti-theft device in his pocket when he entered the store, which tripped the alarm, he said.

Not long after the thefts, police thought they tracked the couple to the Sebastian Hotel in Vail. They obtained surveillance photos from that hotel, identified the couple as Saudi Arabians and showed the pictures to at least one Dennis Basso employee, who positively identified them as the thieves, Magnuson said.

Based on that information, they obtained a search warrant for the Sebastian hotel room; however, police found nothing, Magnuson said, adding that he believes it was a case of mistaken identity.

“Vail detectives interviewed (the Saudis) and didn’t believe they were involved,” Magnuson said.

A Dennis Basso employee also was shown the video from Yves Solomon and positively identified the Solomon couple as the same man and woman who were in the Basso store, he said.

A $35,000 chinchilla coat was stolen from Designer Furs in Vail on Valentine’s Day, according to Vail police. Also, a chain of four Front Range stores was hit for about $20,000 each around the same time, Fain said in February.

CBS4 in Denver did a story Feb. 20 on the fur thefts in Aspen, Vail, Denver and Boulder and obtained surveillance video of the couple at one of the Front Range fur stores that was robbed. That couple looks very similar to the one caught on video at Yves Solomon in Aspen. The man also could be the same man pictured in a still photo released from the Vail theft, though Fain said in February he didn’t think the same couple who were in Aspen committed the theft in Vail.

The couple in Aspen also look a lot like the couple caught on surveillance video stealing a fur from a store in Manhattan last fall or winter, according to a Feb. 9 story on the CBS New York station. The man’s clothing, and his tan boots in particular, are strikingly similar to the clothing worn by the man in Aspen and Denver.

At some point after the Valentine’s Day thefts in Colorado, detectives in New York interviewed a woman Magnuson said he believes is the female half of the couple involved in the Aspen thefts. However, the New York detectives were not able to hold the woman, and when she left she flew to an Eastern European country, he said.

Aspen police have not spoken to their New York counterparts, so it’s unclear why they couldn’t hold the woman, Magnuson and Fain said.

jauslander@aspentimes.com


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