Annual fur thieves hit Aspen, Colorado
The Aspen Times and Vail Daily
Valentine’s Day weekend thieves stole more than $200,000 in furs from stores in Aspen, Vail and Denver, police said Thursday.
The largest theft was a $95,000 silver sable coat from the Dennis Basso boutique at Aspen’s Little Nell on Sunday, said Aspen Police Detective Jeff Fain. A $35,000 chinchilla coat was stolen from Designer Furs in Vail at about 6:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day on Sunday, said Vail Police Detective Annette Dopplick.
In addition, Fain said he received a call Wednesday from an employee of the Max clothing store in Aspen who’d heard about the Dennis Basso theft. The employee reported that thieves hit each of the company’s four stores on the Front Range last weekend for about $20,000 each.
Surveillance video shows them in the Cherry Creek Max store at around 1 p.m. and a Boulder store about an hour before, Scott Seale, co-owner of Max Clothing Stores, told Denver’s CBS 4.
In all the thefts, man-woman couples entered the stores and stuffed items under their clothing, usually a big, puffy jacket.
Fain said the couple who hit the Aspen store was not the same couple who stole the chinchilla from the Vail store.
The Aspen theft involved a clean-shaven man with “Arabic features” between 5-feet-9-inches and 6-feet tall who wore glasses, and a petite woman with black hair and an unknown accent, Fain said. Police later determined the couple is from Saudi Arabia, he said.
A still photo from a surveillance video of the male suspect in the Vail theft shows a bearded man wearing thick-framed glasses, a stocking cap and a jacket over a sweater.
Still, Fain said it’s probably the work of the same crew.
“It’s just too coincidental,” Fain said. “Every year we get hit. Vail gets hit at the same time every year.”
The male thief in the Vail video — who was also described as Middle Eastern — displays a very slick theft technique, Fain said.
The clean-shaven man in Aspen also incorporated a bit of chicanery into his thievery, Fain said.
When he walked in to Aspen’s Dennis Basso boutique, he triggered the store’s anti-theft alarm, but told employees he had a steel plate in his leg that always set off such alerts, Fain said. At one point, the man picked up a silver sable coat, though an employee told him it was too big for his female companion, he said.
Not long after, the man was able to stuff the coat under his puffy jacket and walk out of the store. He again set off the anti-theft alarm on his way out, though employees didn’t pay much attention because of his previous story, Fain said. The man likely had an anti-theft device in his pocket when he entered to trigger the alarm, he said.
The man also took the hanger the coat was on so store employees wouldn’t notice it missing, he said. Dennis Basso employees noticed the theft Monday and said they knew four of the five couples who were in the store Sunday. The fifth couple they didn’t know, and the man was the only customer who handled the silver sable Sunday, Fain said.
However, while Dennis Basso has a solid surveillance system, the staff didn’t know it had frozen the week before and wasn’t working, so there’s no video of the theft, he said.
Police were able to track the couple to the Sebastian Hotel in Vail because they’d visited other stores in the Roaring Fork Valley and told people that’s where they were staying. Another Aspen police detective called the hotel, obtained a surveillance picture of the couple and showed it to Dennis Basso employees, who were 100 percent certain it was the same couple who were there Sunday, Fain said.
That was enough for Aspen District Judge Chris Seldin to sign a search warrant for the Vail hotel room, he said. Fain couldn’t get to Vail to do the search himself because of the rockslide in Glenwood Canyon, so Vail police did it for him and found nothing, he said.
In fact, when Vail police knocked on the hotel room door, the couple answered, allowed them in without a problem and didn’t even want to see the warrant, Fain said. Police determined the couple was from Saudi Arabia.
“These guys are pros,” he said. “They could have stashed (the sable coat) or mailed it. They could have just put it in a FedEx box and sent it off.”
He didn’t know what kind of items were stolen, but said it was done by male-female couples with darker skin tones.
“It would be pretty coincidental if it wasn’t related,” he said.
Fain said Aspen police refer to the fur thieves as “the gypsies” because they come back every year — usually at different times of the year, though never in the summer — and are invariably described as Middle Eastern, Italian or Eastern European.
“Both towns (Aspen and Vail) get hit every year,” Fain said.
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