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Jewelry heist at Four Seasons Hotel might be tied to series of downtown hotel burglaries

March 9, 2010 |  1:09 pm
Surveillance image of the suspect

Los Angeles Police Department detectives are trying to determine whether the bandit who stole jewelry from the Four Seasons Hotel over the weekend is the so-called “Rico Suave” bandit who has struck hotels in downtown L.A.

In August, the man slicked back his hair and pretended to be a member of a Salsa band playing the Greek Theatre. He talked a clerk at the Wilshire Grand Hotel into giving him the keys to the band’s room and made away with $9,000. On his way out, he gave the clerk the band’s CD.

A few weeks later, he donned a Chivas soccer jersey and hugged members of the team as they left another downtown L.A. hotel, the Marriott, on a team bus. Then, posing as a member of the team’s entourage, he convinced a hotel clerk to give him the teams’ room keys, making away with $10,000.

Now, detectives are investigating whether the bandit has made his biggest score yet, at the Four Seasons Hotel on Oscar weekend. According to authorities, a man posing as a uniformed hotel worker made his way into the suite of a Florida billionaire who was in town for the Academy Awards. 

The suspect, speaking Spanish, made small talk in the hotel’s elevator with Cuban-born sugar baron Jose Pepe Fanjul. A short time later, police say, he went to Fanjul’s suite, saying he needed to fix an air conditioner vent. He left a few minutes later with at least $40,000 worth of jewelry belonging to Funjul and his wife Emilia, according to police.

On Tuesday, detectives were scrutinizing videotapes from the Four Seasons, comparing it with footage from other burglaries to determine whether this was the work of the Rico Suave burglar. There are some tantalizing similarities, starting with the slicked-back hair and tall, thin build. Like the other crimes, the Four Seasons heist involved the thief’s playing a character and charming his victims.

Officials said it’s too early to know for sure whether the Four Seasons heist is connected with the others, and they admit they may not know unless the suspect is caught.

“He has all the makings of that rare breed of sophisticated cat burglar,” said Lt. Paul Vernon. “It sounds very similar based on physical appearance and m.o. to the same guy we have been trying to find since October. Until we review the video, we won’t be able to tell for sure. In all these cases, the suspect appears to work alone, is bold and is confident.”

--Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton

Image: Video camera captures suspect in Four Seasons heist. KTLA News.

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