Jewel Heist On South St.

The owner of VIP Jewelers was robbed at gunpoint about 4 a.m. yesterday, police said.
The owner of VIP Jewelers was robbed at gunpoint about 4 a.m. yesterday, police said. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Bandits make off with 600G+

Posted: August 12, 2011

THE SOUTH STREET jewelry-store owner was shaking in the darkness, a pillowcase over his head and his body tied up by a team of armed, masked men.

The bandits then ordered Mustapha Abdallah, 27, owner of VIP Jewelers, to kneel and say a Muslim prayer, according to a store manager, who declined to give his name to reporters yesterday.

They wanted him to say the prayer "to finish him off," the manager said. They wanted to scare him into giving them the keys to the store, he added.

One of the thieves must have been Muslim because he knew the name of the prayer, the manager said.

The men got the keys early yesterday, as well as about $600,000 to $700,000 worth of gold, diamonds and watches and $6,000 in cash, the manager said. They seized items from four display cases, about 80 percent of VIP's inventory, he said.

Abdallah, an immigrant from Tunisia, seen yesterday entering VIP Jewelers visibly shaken, would not speak with reporters outside his store.

Police originally said the heist totaled $1 million, but once Abdallah and the manager returned to the crime scene and assessed the missing jewelry yesterday morning, the estimates were lowered, the manager said.

The married man had kept the store open late Wednesday night and went to sleep in one of the two apartments above the jewelry store, on South Street near 7th. He lives in Norristown, the manager said.

About 4 a.m., he felt the sensation of a gun inside his mouth and another one touching his head, the manager said. The intruders had entered two locked doors without awakening him, and left no signs of forcible entry, he added.

The four thieves - two stayed upstairs with the victim, while the other two rushed downstairs and walked off with the store's most expensive pieces - were "professional," the manager said, recalling Abdallah's impressions.

"They went straight to the most important stuff that we have in the store," the manager said. "They only left the cheap silver stuff."

The store was robbed three weeks ago. No one has been arrested yet, police said.

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