Heist

Police are seeking three men who allegedly staked out a lobby hallway of The Little Nell hotel before breaking into this display case Friday afternoon and stealing what sources said was $800,000 worth of jewelry.

Three men stole an estimated $800,000 worth of diamond-encased jewelry from a display case in the lobby of The Little Nell hotel on Friday afternoon, the latest brazen theft to hit Aspen in recent years.

One of the men — police described them as Caucasian — used a screwdriver to pop open the locked case and deposited a necklace and at least one ring and a set of earrings into a backpack around 1 p.m. The items belonged to Piranesi, a New York City-based business that has an outlet on East Cooper Avenue. The door to that business was still locked because of the theft on Friday evening, but two employees spoke briefly about the crime. One of them, Veronica Sumner, said Piranesi has had the display case in the hotel’s lobby, employed for marketing purposes, for over 20 years.

The thieves made off with “very high-end, beautiful jewelry,” said Tina Lee Taylor, another Piranesi employee.

A source, who was told not to speak publicly, said the men, who wore stocking caps, fled to a vehicle near Rubey Park on Durant Avenue. A license-plate number was taken, but police stopped the vehicle and determined it was a limousine and that the occupants had no involvement in the crime, said Aspen police officer Kirk Wheatley.

But “a whole team is working on it, it’s pretty big,” he said.

May Selby, spokeswoman for the Nell, said that “we can confirm three males were the perpetrators and they were not hotel guests. The Aspen police response was swift. We don’t have any additional details at this point as the investigation is active.”

Another source said the men had arrived in Aspen on Wednesday and scouted the crime scene. Bookended by surveillance cameras on either end of the hallway, they lingered briefly in front of the case, even speaking to an employee of another outlet near the lobby, a source said.

The crime follows a September 2017 case in which five people stole nearly $100,000 from a local jewelry store, and a 2016 theft involving $20,000 from Aspen’s Louis Vuitton outlet.

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