Brazen Jewel Heist Devastates Local Westmount Quebec Business Owner

Photos and story by Robert J. Galbraith; for the Westmount Independent February 2, 2014  

RJG14-0130-IndieRobbery16WebMontreal police are disclosing very little information concerning one of largest jewel heists ever committed on a private business in Westmount. Details are scant as yet, but the crime occurred in the early morning hours of Thursday, January 30th, at the Artgold Fine Art Dealers, located at 4937 Sherbrooke West. The exact amount taken is yet unclear, but at least $150,000 in fine jewelry and antiques were stolen from the well-known shop, that has become a fixture in the neighborhood for over 30 years. It is the largest and most complex robbery in Westmount, in recent memory.

Situated in a greystone triplex, near the corner of Sherbrooke and Claremont, the burglars gained access to the fine art dealers, (that deals in paintings, jewelry and antiques), by breaking through the walls of two neighbouring buildings, including smashing through a 20-inch brick wall, before gaining access to the business where the loot was taken. They also ransacked the offices of the Harmony Health Centre, as they cut their swath through their walls to reach Artgold.

RJG14-0130-IndieRobbery18Web“They came in through the former Pelle Skin Care Centre (at 4935 Sherbrooke) which is now vacant,” explained Orna Villazan, part owner of Harmony Health Centre, as she cleared the rubble of broken bricks and mortar that were strewn all over the staircase of her naturopath centre. “They ransacked here and looked around, but didn’t steal anything. They left our computer, which was openly sitting on one of our desks. They then proceeded to cut all the cables of the alarm system. We were just a means to get to the antique store. They were very professional. They knew what they were doing.”

An employee, who wished to remain anonymous, asked, “How would they know the alarm system was in a closed room out of view?”

The box containing the central alarm system lay dismembered and out of place on the office floor, with its severed wires jutting out a few inches from its casing. “Somehow, they bypassed the motion detectors,” she continued.

The scene in the main office resembled a CSI police investigation scene, with black fingerprint dust covering the face of a large filing cabinet where the thieves pried open the cabinets, hoping to find valuables. Papers littered the floor of another office. Mortar and brick chunks covered the carpeting, making the surreal scene look as though a freak snowstorm of bricks and mortar had just passed through. Dangling wires hung suspended like spaghetti from a small concealed office where the security system was located; before being ripped from the wall. Black fingerprint dust marred the inside and outside wall of the same office.

There were in fact two security systems. Apparently one was working and triggered, but the other back-up system didn’t trigger.

RJG14-0130-IndieRobbery1Web“They caused a huge amount of damage and brought-in specialized equipment to break through the walls. Then they took a large collection of valuable and irreplaceable items, including rare bronze clocks, a huge collection of antique pocket and gold wrist watches and jewelry,” explained a shaken and visibly stunned Artgold owner, Sam Gabbay, as he stood surrounded by the shattered glass, paintings, jewelry, rings, stunning pocket watches and Gucci emblazoned jewelry cases, scattered across his shop floor and left behind by the brazen thieves. “Then they ripped-out and took the Hard Drive disc that contained the video security film.”

They appeared to have hand-picked the best of the best items to pilfer. “The items they took were extremely expensive and they picked and chose the best examples. They didn’t take the paintings, only collectables. These were things they could stick into a small bag and not draw attention. There is at least $150,000 worth of items missing. How much exactly, I don’t know yet. I am still in shock.”

RJG14-0130-IndieRobbery13WebGabbay has owned Artgold since the early 1980’s, and is well-known and loved throughout the business community of Westmount. Other business owners expressed a deep and honest admiration for Gabbay and described him as a warm, gentle man of good business stature and an always smiling, good soul. Their hearts went out to the art dealer.

“I did everything possible to protect my business; there are even steel bars on my back windows. How much more can I do? Obviously it wasn’t enough,” he explained with a long, drawn out sigh.

But as though the robbery wasn’t enough for any normal person to endure in one day – he slowly shuffled through the broken debris of a good part of his life’s work, while confessing, “And on top of this, it’s my mother-in-laws funeral today and I can’t attend it as my day has been taken up by the robbery and investigation.”  

RJG14-0130-IndieRobbery6WebThe police media relations department will not comment on the robbery as it is still under investigation. Certain details of the robbery were omitted by The Independent due to security concerns and in respect for the owner.