BOZEMAN — A suspect in a jewelry and REI heist ring that made its way across the country made an appearance in court Friday.
Bozeman City Police said this case goes further than just downtown Bozeman.
Authorities said that back in January, four people all went into the Alara Jewelry Shop and that’s where they had at least one person pose as a lookout.
One woman, Pilar Monserrat, and another man investigators said were involved were arrested in Minnesota.
Monserrat was extradited back to Gallatin County and is now held on a $250,000 bond.
“They specifically came to Bozeman to target these businesses," said Det. Sgt. Joseph Swanson, Bozeman Police Department.
State after state, store after store…
Detectives like Sgt. Swanson said the group that Monserrat was the “lookout” for targeted Bozeman for a reason.
“They weren’t stealing sweatshirts or T-shirts," Swanson said. "They were taking jewelry, electronics, items that are worth thousands of dollars. This was a little more unique in the sense that they are targeting specific businesses that have merchandise that’s worth a significant amount of money.”
“They just seemed like average customers," said Michael Webb, assistant manager at Alara Jewelry in Bozeman.
“We had noticed that there was a group of four that came in so we were chatting with them, had greeted them," Webb said. "That was that."
To Webb, it seemed like business as usual.
“One of our other workers was showing them some rings and we thought everything was good to go and they had left," Webb said. “They were really professional at it. They weren’t making any kind of noise. They were super discreet. They didn’t give off any red flags, you know, that there was anything weird about them.”
Detectives said it was all a ploy to get into several jewelry cases, grabbing what they could and escaping.
According to the detectives, this is not the first time.
“This has happened in multiple places, multiple states," Swanson said. "It’s the same type of activity that they are doing. They are hitting REI not only in Montana, Colorado, other areas. I think we are still identifying those places.”
“We had noticed that there was some stuff missing from one of our front cases so we looked at the cameras immediately," Webb said. "That’s when we noticed that someone had snuck into the case and grabbed what they wanted.”
In less than four minutes, Monserrat’s group stole $7,040 of jewelry.
They also hit the Bozeman REI, raising that total of stolen goods to nearly $12,000.
“I’ve been doing this for a while," Swanson said. "They’re very good at what they do.”
The receipt doesn’t stop there.
Swanson said Monserrat’s group’s thefts from REIs in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Idaho and beyond could range up to $60,000, possibly more.
Yet, Alara’s cameras helped ID at least two of the suspects, including Monserrat, something Webb said is a note of satisfaction after a multi-state crime spree.
“Not only was it the cameras but the investigator," Webb said. "The work that he put in and multi-state was pretty impressive. There’s definitely a sense of satisfaction, you know, in that this isn’t going to be happening to anyone else.”
And REI's Loss Prevention system also helped connect the dots.
“REI has their own Loss Prevention who had done extensive investigation out of here," Swanson said. "They were very cooperative with our investigation. Once they were apprehended in Minnesota, they notified us.”
Monserrat is now lodged in the Gallatin County Detention Center while the other man is still in custody in Minnesota.
The other two suspects are still at large.