CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Two Union County men have been accused in a nationwide theft ring involving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of diamonds.
Federal authorities said they've busted an enterprise that involved at least seven people, including Trey Smith Adams, 27, of Indian Trail, and Victor James Lupis, 25, of Monroe, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.
Authorities said suspects in the ring approached jewelry stores across the country to scope them out, often posing as couples shopping for a wedding ring. That initial visit allowed them to identify a specific employee to target on the day of the planned heist. They also would sometimes ask the store to order larger, more expensive diamonds, according to authorities. Then the suspects would return and take off with valuable diamonds.
Afterward, the diamonds were sold to a jeweler in Philadelphia and the proceeds were distributed among the participants, according to court documents.
Lupis was identified as a suspect in a December theft in Portland, Ore., after Portland police received an anonymous tip.
Authorities said Lupis had entered a jewelry store, posing as a customer as he examined two rings. Then he grabbed the rings and fled. In the Portland case, the rings had a retail value of more than $147,000.
Lupis was arrested on charges of aggravated theft in April in connection with the Portland theft. Authorities said he confessed to that crime and five other diamond thefts he'd committed or participated in. He named several suspects in the thefts, including Adams, police said.
Lupis told authorities he and Adams flew to Portland for the December heist, and that Adams had been stationed near the jewelry store as the getaway driver.
Lupis also told authorities the pair was involved in a February theft in Nashville, Tenn. In that case, authorities said, Adams distracted a jewelry store employee by showing interest in a watch while Lupis had another employee show him several diamond rings.
As Adams left, Lupis took the rings and ran. The rings were worth more than $270,000.
Adams faces charges of conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property. He was being held in Mecklenburg jail Wednesday. His bond status was not available.