Jewel thieves

Authorities on Wednesday released these surveillance images of three men suspected in the theft of an estimated $800,000 worth of jewelry from a display case near the lobby of The Little Nell hotel on Friday afternoon.

Aspen police on Wednesday released surveillance video showing the three men suspected of stealing an estimated $800,000 worth of jewelry from a display case near The Little Nell lobby in Friday’s quick, midday heist.

In addition to the 32 seconds of footage leading up the crime, arguably one of the largest locally in terms of dollar value in recent memory, authorities also released images of the suspects at an airport. An Aspen Police Department press release says the images were released in the hope that the public can help identify the suspects, and it notes that the video footage captured the men with facial hair, but the stills from the airport “show they may have shaved to alter their appearances.”

The brazen heist happened around 1:15 p.m., when sources at the scene, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the crime, said one of the men used a screwdriver to pop open the flimsily locked glass case rented by Piranesi, a New York City-based business. The thieves made off with “very high-end, beautiful jewelry,” said one employee of Piranesi, which has an outlet on East Cooper Avenue.

She declined to specify what was taken, but another source said the man deposited a necklace and at least one ring and a set of earrings, all laden with diamonds, into a backpack. They then fled to a vehicle near Rubey Park, the person said.

The video from the Nell hallway shows one of the suspects, thinly bearded and wearing torn blue jeans, a black, long-sleeved shirt, a puffy vest and a red, white and black stocking cap enter the lobby. He is followed a few seconds later by another man, clad in a black, long-sleeved shirt and a puffy vest, carrying a backpack. They meet the third suspect, who looks to be blocking the second man’s use of the screwdriver. The video ends as the man appears to break into the case.

Wednesday’s press release from Aspen police says the suspects left the scene with numerous “very high-value” pieces and fled in a black Ford SUV with a California license plate. The vehicle is listed as a rental.

Bill Linn, an Aspen assistant police chief, declined to identify where the airport photos were taken, citing the active investigation, but said they were taken after the theft.

He said no one pursued the trio but that it was a Little Nell employee who alerted police. A source said the suspects had been in a town for a few days prior to the crime, though a Nell spokeswoman said they had not stayed at the upscale hotel.

Another Piranesi employee said the business has had the display case in the hotel’s lobby, for marketing purposes, for over 20 years.

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