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$20,000 bracelet stolen from Tampa jewelry store

TAMPA — For a jewelry store manager, it was a painful oversight.

For three men with bad intentions, it was an opportunity.

Leo Cortes, manager of the Bulgattie & Co. jewelry store in the University Mall, was uncharacteristically working alone on Friday night.

More importantly, the glass showcase that holds the store's finest pieces of jewelry had been left unlocked.

At about 7:30 p.m., two customers walked in and asked to see a women's $3,000 ring. A present for a girlfriend, they said.

A third man arrived and headed to back of the store. "He's looking. I don't see him doing anything suspicious at the time," Cortes recalled.

The two men asked to see another ring. One of them leaned on the glass and placed a large shopping bag on the showcase, obstructing Cortes' view of the third man.

Moments later, as the man in the back walked out, the others said they would later return.

It wasn't until closing time at about 8:30 p.m. that Cortes noticed the missing jewelry: a $20,000 white gold bracelet beaming with diamonds.

"Those guys were lucky that night," Cortes said.

The store usually is staffed by at least two employees. But on Friday, Cortes' son, who works at the store, left to run a business errand.

Cortes and his brother, Eddie Cortes, the store owner, watched the surveillance (in all, the store has 16 cameras), which captured the theft. As the customers distracted him, the third man reached over the counter, opened the jewelry case, snatched the bracelet and tucked it away in his pocket.

Next to the bracelet was what might be the store's most expensive item: a $50,000 18-karat gold Rolex.

The brothers called security, which called the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Cortes said a detective picked up the surveillance video Monday.

The robbers were described as being in their 20s, except for one who was wearing a fedora and might be in his 30s, deputies say. The other two men were wearing baseball caps, and one had a red bill and the letter "A" on the front.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at (813) 247-8200, or Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-8477.

"It just wasn't our day," Cortes said.

$20,000 bracelet stolen from Tampa jewelry store 06/12/12 [Last modified: Sunday, June 17, 2012 1:48am]
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