BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Two Brink’s guards were tasked with transporting millions of dollars in jewelry and gemstones from San Mateo, California, to a secure storage yard in Los Angeles in July. But the delivery didn’t go according to plan, a new lawsuit explains.
Following a San Mateo gem and jewelry show on July 10, an armored big rig was loaded with 73 bags containing jewelry, according to a separate lawsuit filed by Brink’s on Aug. 4 in federal court in New York. The truck left around midnight with the shipment ultimately intended for a jewelry show in Pasadena.
As they made the roughly 370-mile trip, one guard slept while the other drove “in compliance with Department of Transportation regulations,” according to the Brink’s suit. The truck briefly stopped at the Buttonwillow Rest Area on Interstate 5, just west of Bakersfield, for the driver to use the bathroom.
At 2:05 a.m. on July 11, they arrived at the Flying J in Lebec, about 40 miles south of Bakersfield. The driver left his partner in the sleeping berth and went inside for food.
Upon returning at 2:32 a.m., the driver noticed both the plastic seal around the truck and its rear lock had been cut, but the guard who had been sleeping said he “did not see or hear anything unusual,” the suit stated.
In the 27 minutes that the driver was gone, thieves allegedly stole nearly two dozen bags of jewelry, according to a suit filed by jewelers impacted by the incident.
The guards “failed miserably,” jewelers wrote.
“One left a truckload of jewelry and gemstones for a half-hour completely out of his sight at a remote truck stop while he was buying food, and the other literally was asleep on the job, snoozing away just a few feet from where thieves were stealing approximately $100 million of plaintiffs’ property,” according to the jewelers’ lawsuit, which was filed on Aug. 19 in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The heist left the “small, mostly older jewelers, without the means to earn their living,” their suit reads. Of the 73 large orange bags the truck had been carrying, 22 were missing.
The jewelers accuse Brink’s of negligence and breach of contract, among other causes of action, and name Flying J as a defendant, arguing the plaza had inadequate lighting and video or other surveillance of the parking area.
The actual value of jewelry and gemstones reportedly stolen is also under dispute.
Brink’s argues the manifests for the missing bags list them as having a total value of $8.7 million, much less than the $100 million the jewelers alleged.
“On information and belief, Brink’s believes that each defendant seeks to recover more from Brink’s than is permitted under the contract,” according to the security company’s suit filed in federal court in New York.
The Los Angeles Times first reported the suits last week. While the sheriff’s investigators have acquired video related to the theft, no arrests have been made.