Police seek thief who stole jewelry from billionaire couple

Police today sought a man who posed as a hotel worker and stole jewelry from a billionaire couple visiting Los Angeles for the Oscars.

The man is suspected of being the same slick-haired con artist who stole more than $45,000 from out-of-town sports teams and musicians last year, according to police.

The Friday night heist at the Four Seasons Hotel is believed related to the Oct. 20 theft of more than $20,000 in cash and valuables from members of an Israeli basketball team while they played the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center, Los Angeles police Detective Ernie Rodriguez said Monday.

The Staples Center crime was discovered at halftime of the Clippers-Maccabi game, said Lt. Albert Gavin of the Los Angeles Police Department's Central Station.

In the latest heist, Cuban-born Jose Pepe Fanjul, who owns one of the nation's largest sugar-growing and refining firms, and his wife, Emilia, were robbed Friday night at the Four Seasons Hotel, where they were staying while in town for Oscars celebrations, he told the New York Post.

"We were victims of a robbery at the hotel," Fanjul said. "He took my wife's jewelry that was both valuable and sentimental. We are OK and have reported the incident to the police."

The Post reported that Fanjul, who lives in Palm Beach and is considered one of the world's richest men, spoke with the suspect in an elevator.

Rodriguez said the suspect, described as a man in his mid-30s with slicked-back black hair and wearing tuxedo-style clothing to look like an employee, later went to the couple's room around 10 p.m. Friday and said he needed to check for an air-vent problem. While he was in the room, he stole some of the woman's jewelry.

In the Oct. 20 case, the suspect wore a suit and some type of credential to gain access to Staples Center and the team's locker room at halftime, police said.

The man's distinctive hairstyle also showed up in security images and video from the Wilshire Grand Hotel and the Los Angeles Marriott Downtown during burglaries dating back to August.

The suspect dressed to blend in and persuaded staffers he was part of entourages to rip off a Mexican soccer team and a salsa band, according to Los Angeles police Lt. Paul Vernon, chief of Central Station detectives.

On Sept. 22, the man's target was Chivas de Guadalajara, 11-time champions of Mexican soccer. Team members were scheduled to play Carson-based Chivas USA in an exhibition at the Rose Bowl the next day and staying at the Marriott Downtown.

The man wore a Chivas jersey and hugged members of the team as they left the Marriott on a bus, Vernon said.

"He turns, walks up to the desk clerk, and convinces the clerk to give him room keys," Vernon said. "Over $10,000 was later reported missing from the soccer players' rooms."

On Aug. 29, a 30-member salsa band was booked to play the Greek Theater and staying at the Wilshire Grand Hotel.

"A Hispanic man with slicked-back hair convinces a desk clerk at the Wilshire Grand Hotel that he is part of the salsa group and needs pass cards to rooms," Vernon said. "He gives the desk clerk a music CD in thanks for the help. Over $9,000 was later discovered missing from several rooms."

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