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Utah jewelry heist similar to others in West

No suspects have been identified in last weekend's $1 million jewelry robbery at Cottonwood Mall, but investigators say it is similar to a number of other robberies in the West.

Three employees were delivering the diamonds and other jewels to the store Saturday morning when four men drove up to them in the parking lot, flashed two handguns, grabbed the jewels and drove off."It was so fast," said Salt Lake County sheriff's detective Brent Adamson. "They just got the victims by surprise and took control of it before they knew what was going on."

The stolen goods include loose diamonds and other stones such as emeralds and sapphires and rings and pendants with jewels.

"This is by far the biggest (jewelry heist) I know of in the county in the last two years, and I venture one of the biggest in the last 10 years or more," Adamson said.

"This type of caper is being done all over the Western (United States)," said Salt Lake County sheriff's Lt. Jim Potter.

There have been robberies over the past couple of years in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Adamson said. Two thieves have been convicted in Seattle. Most of those cases involved Colombian nationals, he said.

"We don't know they are all one organized group," Adamson said. "But their method of operation is very similar to all the cases we know of."

Detectives believe the men watched over the store, studied the employees' schedules and learned when the jewelry is delivered.

"They're very well-organized and spend a lot of time researching this," Adamson said. "Either they saw advertisements of a sale or saw the sale in the store. They spent a lot of time casing it and moved in when they saw the opportunity was right."

Rob Boley, assistant vice president of public relations for Fred Meyer in Portland, declined to comment on the incident and would not say whether the store was re-evaluating its security measures.

Adamson said the store did not use armed security guards or armored vehicles because it wants to be "low key, quiet and unassuming."