$500,000 in jewelry stolen from St. Charles art show vendor
A traveling artisan working at the St. Charles Fine Arts Show says $500,000 in jewelry was stolen from his van Saturday night.
"Today is the first day I'm not crying," jeweler Gopal Kapoor said Wednesday afternoon as he headed home to Greenville, North Carolina, instead of to one of the 16 art shows he had planned to attend June through September.
Kapoor makes rings, necklaces and other pieces from gold, silver and precious stones. As he has done for more than 30 years, he camps out in a Ford Transit van during the summer while attending shows throughout the Midwest.
After the St. Charles show Saturday night, he put his wares back in the van that was parked in a lot at Illinois and Riverside avenues. He went to dinner with a friend and planned to move the van to a parking lot near the police station and sleep there.
However, he returned at 9 p.m. to find someone had broken in through a vent window.
According to St. Charles Deputy Chief Dave Kintz, the burglars stole two plastic totes of jewelry with rubies, sapphires and emeralds, a case of gold and silver jewelry, a case containing cash, a bag of clothing, and camping cookware.
"They took every single piece of my jewelry. They did not even leave me my underpants," Kapoor said.
The thief also took a container with sales-tax licenses, business cards from contacts and other paperwork, he said.
"I'm devastated. They just wiped me out," he said.
The items were not insured, he added.
Kapoor and Kintz believe he was targeted.
Kapoor said he has not been burglarized before, but friends on the art-show circuit have. Thieves sometimes scout artists at one show to see what they are selling, then follow them to another show, he said.
Kapoor is compiling an exact inventory of what was stolen, as well as identifying marks and other characteristics, Kintz said.
Police are also following up on a report from another vendor about a suspicious person seen in the parking lot around the time of the theft. Kapoor speculates that person may have been a lookout.
Jenna Sawicki, director of the Downtown St. Charles Partnership, said artists are encouraged to park in lots it patrols, including a lot by the police station. The lot where Kapoor was parked was not one approved by the partnership, she said.
Kintz said police believe the thief or thieves may be part of an out-of-state crew. Information will be shared with the FBI.
"It's not necessarily a crime of opportunity," he said.
Friends have started a GoFundMe page to help Kapoor. It has raised $4,803 as of Wednesday afternoon.