A Gem of a Caper

Bags of jewels stolen. Two brothers in custody. The store owner implicated. Who done it?

Prosecutors argued that Warner's alleged payment of stolen earrings and Troy's suits to Kim showed she had contact with the brothers after the heist and aided them in eluding police. Warner's attorney countered that Kim, with a half-dozen prior convictions on burglary, drug, and assault charges, may have taken part in the robbery.

Kim boosted Warner's cause by refusing to testify, a decision that influenced the judge to toss the case. Not long after the hearing, Warner gave birth to Dino's youngest son, who will turn 3 this summer. In a brief interview with SF Weekly, Warner, 33, declined to discuss her relationship with Dino, preferring instead to rant.

"The whole thing, I'm disgusted. The whole system is full of outright lies. I'm a law-abiding citizen."

The judge's ruling aside, Gardner and Leydon still believe in Warner's guilt, though she has no criminal record. "We felt we had enough on her," Leydon says. "But you move on to the next thing."

George Turner worked the Bay Area's black market for a quarter-century. He befriended a large network of suppliers and buyers, trafficking stolen TVs, laptops, cell phones, furs, suits, coats, jeans. He handled enough hot jewelry to learn the four Cs of gemology — cut, clarity, color, and carat weight — and the tricks of moving high-end loot.

A day after the Lang heist, Turner says a friend brought him 250 to 300 pieces of jewelry to sell. Each bore a Lang price tag. Turner claims he asked no questions about how the man obtained the stash, and provides no clues about his identity.

In three days, Turner sold more than half the jewelry to Bay Area customers, he says, collecting about $720,000 for his supplier. He claims he received a $15,000 cut and the leftover necklaces, bracelets, and rings. He figured he could peddle the gems for as much as $50,000.

Later that April, Turner recalls, as he drove to Sacramento on another "business trip," his cell phone chirped. "Police are looking for you, man," a friend said. "You're in the paper." So were the Smiths, named by investigators as fellow suspects in the Lang robbery.

The three childhood friends had run into trouble again.

Turner grew up near the Smiths in the Western Addition. Starting in his late teens, court records show, Dino served time for stealing a car, carrying a concealed gun, and tying up a theft victim. Troy chose a straighter path, at least through his early 20s. He played football in high school and community college, and in the early '80s, he joined a pro team in Italy for a season. After his career fizzled, he drifted back to California, banding together with his older brother and Turner to "live off the land."

Turner invokes the phrase in recounting a litany of alleged thefts that police suspected the trio committed, but failed to solve. He boasts of cleaning out clothing, shoe, and jewelry shops in low-rent districts and Union Square alike, gaining entry by sneaking into basements or rappelling onto rooftops. He recalls breaking into an art gallery to knock a hole in the wall it shared with a Gucci store. "The whole neighborhood was dressed real nice after that one," he says, smiling.

Turner's rationale for such iniquities bespeaks a criminal's skewed logic. "Everybody got insurance," he says. "You get what you want. The insurance company pays the store. It's all good." So good, he contends, that some struggling business owners, hoping to collect on indemnity claims, requested the trio's "help" with break-ins.

Turner's kinship with the Smiths exposed him to their sibling rivalry, as they stole money, cars, and women from one another. He describes Dino as mellower than Troy, who earned the nickname Raw-Raw for his trip-wire temper. "Dino wanted to give money to the homeless," Turner says. "[Troy] wanted to run over them."

A conviction for robbing a pawnshop interrupted Turner's criminal career in 1987. Released two years later, he soon cut business ties with the Smiths, he says, while remaining friends with them. "They had gotten all these other people around them. Three's a good number. Six ain't."

In early 1990, the brothers were arrested on charges that they intended to kidnap and rob Lawrence Lin, owner of the sprawling nightclub DV8, one of their regular hangouts. An ex-lover of Dino's had tipped off police, who staked out Lin's Russian Hill home in the early hours of March 19.

Officers watched as the Smiths crept up to the house around 1 a.m., only to run off seconds later and drive away. (Department legend has it that a cop inside the house flushed a toilet, spooking the brothers.) Police pulled their car over and inside found bulletproof vests, three handguns, and more than 100 rounds of ammunition.

The bust would yield charges that the siblings committed dozens of robberies and burglaries in 1989 while directing a citywide theft ring with a handful of associates. In their zeal to nail the Smiths, prosecutors reduced charges on no fewer than four of the brothers' alleged accomplices to secure their testimony.

Dino and Troy stood trial in 1991 for the robbery of $500,000 in jewelry from the widow of a Nicaraguan drug lord. Two thieves had tied up Victoria Magana, her two children, and her sister inside Magana's Richmond District home during the break-in.

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