Naples, FL: Sandy Thalheimer exchanged gunshots with robbers after they stole $279,000 worth of jewelry from his store, Thalheimers Jewelers, on February 8, 2011. The shooting occurred in the parking lot outside the store. After the thieves robbed a traveling jewelry salesman at the store and tried to get away in their car, Thalheimer attempted to block their vehicle from getting out of the parking lot by ramming it with his truck. He said that by instinct he got out of the truck and started shooting at them. Thalheimer had never shot at a human being before, although he thinks he hit one of the suspects.Thalheimer owns a Fort Myers gun school.
Naples detective Robert Young believes the five Colombian suspects were from Miami and are part of a South American theft group. They use false identifications and credit cards. They rented cars from Miami and used three getaway cars.Young said he’s getting close with good leads.
For weeks the suspects were following a jewelry salesman, Gregory M. George, of Melbourne, Florida. The suspects robbed George at gunpoint as he visited the store. That’s when Thalheimer followed them out for the shootout. George works for a New York-based jewelry manufacturer, Frederick Goldman, Inc.. George usually changes his cell phone number as he travels.
Naples police get help from Robert Taylor, director of the South American Theft Group Intelligence Network (SATGIN), a non-profit organization that trains police agencies to investigate South American theft groups. Taylor advises that this organized crime is composed of cells of criminals that are transient, change names, and change identification cards and credit cards continually.