Jewel thieves

The identities of three men suspected in a jewelry heist at The Little Nell Hotel last week have been established thanks to help from the Chilean government, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the TSA and others.

The identities of three men who allegedly stole jewelry worth over $400,000 from the lobby of The Little Nell hotel in a brazen, midday heist on Dec. 21 have been established with the help of the Chilean government, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, airport surveillance cameras, the Transportation Security Administration, and a California police department.

Felony arrests warrants have been issued for the suspects — one of whom was arrested for the 2012 theft of $44 million pesos, roughly equivalent to $2.2 million in U.S. dollars. The warrants, made public Wednesday, detail Aspen detectives’ wide-ranging investigation into the men, named as Richard Esteban Delgado Escobar, 28; Diego Miqueles, 37; and Giuliano Maurizio Donoso Jofre, 40. All are charged with felony counts of theft, burglary and conspiracy, and have yet to be arrested.

According to the warrants, what the suspects allegedly stole from a flimsily locked display case in the upscale hotel’s lobby around 1 p.m. was less valuable than what sources in law enforcement and employees at the scene first estimated. But their haul was still immense, including a set of nearly 27-carat diamond earrings encased in 18-carat white gold worth $169,000; a $66,000 bracelet with nearly 24 carats of diamonds; and a $50,000 necklace. Eight items in all were quickly secreted into a backpack from the display case, which Piranesi, a New York City-based firm that has an outlet on East Cooper Avenue, has rented for years to drum up business.

Detective Ritchie Zah with Aspen police wrote that the men, around noon on the day of the crime, parked an SUV on Spring Street adjacent to the hotel, walked into the Nell and were seen near the display case. They returned not long after, and the man believed to be Delgado Escobar used “some kind of item” to open the case, Zah wrote, citing hotel surveillance footage (a source at the scene said a screwdriver was used to pry open the window).

The SUV was tracked to a rental agency, and a representative said it had been rented by a man using a credit card with the name “Marco Vanzini Sanchez,” the warrant says. A TSA contact told Aspen officer Seth Delgrasso that a man using that name took a flight from Denver to Los Angeles on Dec. 22.

During the execution of a search warrant on a vehicle found in Denver, Adriano Minniti, also an Aspen police detective, found a receipt to a marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas. It showed an item had been purchased by a Marco Sanchez who used a Puerto Rican driver’s license. But that license number came back to a gray-haired man who is 85 years old and clearly did not match “any of the suspects in this case,” Zah wrote, adding that he believes the ID was fake.

At Denver International Airport, a man using the name Giuliano Maurizio Donosojofre scanned his boarding pass to fly to L.A. Zah, believing the name to be unique, googled it and found a Chilean newspaper article from 2012 about the peso heist.

The identities of Donoso Jofre and Miqueles were confirmed based on their arrests for a scam in California, their warrants say. In late November, Miqueles and two accomplices followed a woman after she withdrew cash from an ATM. They placed money beneath her vehicle, and one suspect told her she had dropped cash, according to a detective with the Brea, Calif., police department. The other two allegedly stole cash from her purse while the victim was distracted.

“Booking photos provided by [the Brea detective] show Miqueles to be a match for Suspect 3 [in the Aspen case] and Donoso to be a match for Suspect 2,” Zah wrote. “Later, I learned from the Consulate General of Chile that Donoso was a Chilean citizen confirmed through a passport number … and booking photo provided by the Brea Police Department.”

Further facial recognition allegedly confirming the suspects’ identities was obtained from DIA law enforcement; the Ute Mountaineer in Aspen, where Donoso apparently bought a folding knife just before the jewelry theft; and a Homeland Security agent who told Zah that Delgado Escobar, using a Chilean passport, was photographed and fingerprinted for a visa application in 2014. His photo, analyzed through facial-recognition software, overwhelmingly matched a comparison to the photo of Marco Vanzini Sanchez in the Puerto Rican driver’s license, the warrant says, citing the Homeland Security officer.

The same agent also found a border-crossing photo from October 2018 linking a man who used a different name. The man’s fingerprints were identical to Delgado Escobar’s, and his photo taken at the border was an even closer match to Vanzini Sanchez’s Puerto Rican driver’s license, Zah wrote.

Chad is a Contributing Editor for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at chad@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @chad_the_scribe.

Contibuting Editor