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Trial begins for 3 suspects in O.C. jewelry heists

The final three of 11 suspects arrested in a pair of Orange County jewelry heists face long prison terms if convicted in a trial that began Wednesday in Westminster.

Aida Arroyo, 29, Michael Burgin, 32, and Adam Weick, 30, are charged with multiple felony counts in connection with the 2009 robberies in Tustin and Laguna Beach, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office and other agencies involved in the case.

Arroyo is accused of entering Tustin Village Jewelers on the pretense of selling a ring. Customers had to be buzzed in through a security gate.

When she started to step out, saying she wanted to make a call, Burgin and Weick allegedly rushed in. At gunpoint, the suspects allegedly demanded that the owner unlock jewelry cases containing diamonds.

According to prosecutors, the suspects made off with more than $160,000 in jewelry.

Burgin also is accused of being involved in a second robbery, at Baca Jewelers in Laguna Beach, in which more than $1 million worth of watches and jewelry were stolen. Burgin and two other suspects evaded a police pursuit.

Soon after, Arroyo allegedly was involved in the theft of mail and credit cards.

Nine of the 11 suspects are members or associates of a San Diego street gang, authorities said. All are San Diego-area residents.

Some of the stolen jewelry ended up for sale at two secondhand jewelry stores in San Diego County.

The eight other defendants, ranging in age from 23 to 68, were convicted of various charges in previous proceedings; six pleaded guilty.

Two pawnbrokers each got one year of probation and a $10,000 fine related to receiving stolen property. The longest sentence to date has been 25 years in state prison.

The multiagency investigation included police departments in Laguna Beach, Tustin, Chula Vista and Oceanside and sheriff’s departments in Orange and San Diego counties as well as the Department of Homeland Security.

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-- Howard Blume

 
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