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The arrests relate to stolen jewellery believed to be linked to brazen Melbourne store attacks. Image courtesy: Victoria Police
The arrests relate to stolen jewellery believed to be linked to brazen Melbourne store attacks. Image courtesy: Victoria Police

Breakthrough in Melbourne jewellery robberies

The Melbourne jewellery industry has again been thrust into the spotlight with news that three men have been arrested in relation to the receiving and selling of stolen jewellery believed to be linked to a string of armed robberies in the past year.

Video footage released by Victoria Police showed Alejandro Mendieta Blanco, a 31-year-old diamond and gold dealer, as one of the three arrested. The other two men, aged 34 and 36, have not been identified.

A Victoria Police spokesperson told Jeweller that the three men were charged with handling stolen goods, recklessly possessing stolen goods and knowingly possessing stolen goods.

The spokesperson added that two of the men were arrested at a jewellery business located on Collins Street and the third at a residential property. Mendieta Blanco is believed to operate two businesses, Sell Your Gold and Diamond on Sale, which trade from the Collins Street premises.

All three men received bail and will appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday 10 October.

According to Victoria Police, officers have also seized a number of items including cash, gold, silver, precious stones and gold bullion understood to either be “stolen or the proceeds of crime”.

Ongoing investigations

The charges follow warrants executed by Victoria Police’s Gangs Crime Squad on Thursday 5 October. The investigation into the selling and receiving of stolen jewellery was launched after a series of brazen armed robberies took place at jewellery stores located across Melbourne over the past year.

On multiple occasions, masked youths in gangs of three, four and five forced their way into stores, smashing cabinets, windows and doors. A majority of the offences took place during operating hours and resulted in extensive property damage.

When speaking with Jeweller a few months ago, detective inspector Kerin Moloney confirmed one of the major characteristics of the offenders was youth.

“We’ve charged 36 offenders and 24 of those were 17 years or under at the time of arrest,” Moloney said at the time. “The youngest was 15.”

Comments by Victoria Police acting commander Peter De Santo suggested that the latest arrests highlighted not only the police’s commitment to curbing the crimes but also the large number of parties involved.

“It’s not only about identifying and targeting offenders involved in violent incidents at jewellery stores, it’s also about investigating what happens after those offences occur,” De Santo was quoted as stating in multiple media reports.

'We know that offenders will be looking to move on items, many of which have significant value, so it's about making sure we follow those lines of enquiry and stop those providing avenues for the disposal of these goods,” he added.

De Santo urged those working in the trade to remain vigilant and contact police if they noticed anything suspicious.

Additional details

On Friday 6 October, the day that the charges were made, Mendieta Blanco's Sell Your Gold website stated that the office was closed due to “unforseen family circumstances”.

As well as trading gold and gemstones, Mendieta Blanco was also said to have offered high-interest loans secured against jewellery.

According to reports, Mendieta Blanco lent more than $1.1 million to third parties, including former high-profile diamond retailer Ronnie Ben-Simon.

As previously reported by Jeweller, Ben-Simon was the director of a group of companies that consisted of Bensimon Retail Group, trading as Bensimon Diamonds at Crown Melbourne.

Ben-Simon placed his companies in voluntary administration in May 2016 after racking up debts of nearly $7 million.

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