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2 gunmen bind store's owner, steal jewelry

Robbery in Westgate area 2nd this week, 3rd in month

Azure-Jewelers-robbery

A Toledo police van sits in front of Azure Jewelers in the Executive Shoppers Center after a robbery Friday afternoon.

The Blade/Lisa Bernheim
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Armed with guns, two men bound a West Toledo jewelry store owner with tape and handcuffed him to one of his employees during a robbery Friday, witnesses said.

Azure Jewelry owner Ali Cheaib’s wrist was handcuffed to his employee’s ankles, which were also handcuffed, said Vicky Hunt, who works next door at Charles Paul Salon. Mr. Cheaib’s arms were also bound with tape.

Once the employees were bound and handcuffed, two more men entered the store.

Ms. Hunt said Mr. Cheaib and the employee crawled from the jewelry store to the salon and asked for someone to call police.

The jewelry store, at 3344 Secor Rd. in the Executive Shoppes plaza, was robbed around 1:20 p.m. The jewelry store robbery was the second this week and at least the third this month.

“They cleaned him out,” Ms. Hunt said. “It’s very traumatic.”

Mr. Cheaib, who stepped outside his store for a cigarette shortly after the incident, declined to comment because of the pending investigation. He rubbed his right wrist, showing women from the salon where he had been cuffed.

Police said they were able to get a “very good picture” from surveillance video inside the store and might be able to use video footage from other stores in the plaza.

Ms. Hunt, the salon’s receptionist, said she was at the back of the salon having lunch when she heard a loud “thud.” She thought someone dropped a bottle of shampoo and didn’t think anything of it until seeing Mr. Cheaib come to ask for help.

The lights were off inside the jewelry store and black curtains were pulled over the front windows Friday afternoon as police were in and out of the shop. What little of the store was unguarded by the curtains showed nearly empty jewelry cases.

Two Toledo men, Sean Howard and Josh Benner, both 19, were at Azure early in the afternoon trying to sell a watch that Mr. Howard received as a high school graduation present. They went to lunch and, when they returned to the store about an hour later to take Mr. Cheaib up on his offer, they were shocked to find police outside.

“If we would have gone to eat first, we could have been robbed too,” Mr. Howard said.

The men said they didn’t see anything suspicious while they were in the store — no other customers were inside and nobody seemed to be walking around outside.

Customers use a buzzer outside the front door to request entry to the store.

Ms. Hunt said she wasn’t surprised to hear a store in the plaza was robbed — nearly everyone’s car had been broken into while parked in the lot, she said.

Other stores at the plaza have, at some point, been robbed or burglarized, police said.

Prior to the robbery, police scanner traffic suggested that a black Lexus was parked behind a trash bin near Huntington Bank, 3316 Secor. A number of people had reportedly called to report the car. Callers told police dispatchers that they saw four armed men in the car and one was carrying a blue backpack.

The license plate on the Lexus did not match the car description, dispatchers said over the radio.

Last Tuesday, J. Foster Jeweler’s at Westfield Franklin Park mall was robbed by two men.

Ronald Mason, 22, of Melvindale, Mich., and Allen Adams, 23, of Detroit — were charged with robbery, Toledo police Detective Sgt. Patrick Skinner said.

As well, Safari Gems Jewelers, 4334 Monroe St., was robbed of money from a cash register on July 8. An arrest has not been made in the incident.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.

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