One day, Dustin Lewis and Margaux Ornelas were living in a tent on the desert floor. Overnight, authorities say, they had a fortune: nearly $2.2 million worth of luxury watches.
On Friday, about six months later, Lewis, 36, and Ornelas, 42, were indicted on four counts of burglary, two counts of conspiracy and one count of grand larceny.
The charges stemmed from a night in early December, when authorities said the couple hopped the wall of a StorageOne on West Flamingo Road and happened upon a unit where Marc Falcone, a former high-ranking Station Casinos executive, had stored at least 21 watches, ranging in value from $12,300 to $300,000, lined neatly on metal shelving.
A few of the watches have been recovered, but investigators are still searching for the rest, including one of the most expensive, a $300,000 Greubel Forsey.
District Judge Michelle Leavitt on Friday issued a $500,000 arrest warrant for Lewis, who is on parole in an unrelated case, and set bail at $100,000 for Ornelas, who remains in the Clark County Detention Center.
When Metro learned what had been stolen, it enlisted at least 23 people on the property crimes case, including seven officers, eight detectives, five crime scene analysts, two forensic scientists and a sergeant.
Detectives believe Lewis and Ornelas lived in a dirt lot near the facility and learned that no one patrolled the area at night, when the gates were locked, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney David Stanton.
They’re accused of climbing over the wall of the facility in the pre-dawn hours of Dec. 8 and prying open the rolling doors of three units.
In the second unit, a victim reported missing a Mickey Mouse collector doll, a Louboutin collector doll, a Madame Alexander doll, a green Barbie doll, a black briefcase, Thomas the Train toys, a green Army jacket and a chess board, though “nothing of any great value.”
“He said he just did not have the space for all of those items at the home he was currently staying in,” Lewis’ arrest report said.
Lewis and Ornelas are accused of loading up duffel bags and a wheelchair with the loot: three Greubel Forseys worth $300,000 apiece, a $185,000 Richard Mille/Felipe Massa, a $150,000 Vacheron, a $150,000 Audemars Piguet, several Panerais, a couple of Pateks and at least one Rolex.
A couple of days later they located cousins Tyree Faulkner and Thomas Herod and offered $500 for a ride in Faulkner’s matte black 1998 Lincoln Navigator, the police report said.
Police said they happened to be in the area Dec. 11, when the four returned to the storage unit and set off an alarm.
When Faulkner was arrested, he told police he had been in Las Vegas for about a month. He and his cousin were paid to drive the couple to “a jewelry store,” where the woman tried unsuccessfully to sell a watch, Faulkner said.
As she walked out of the business, Faulkner told investigators, one of the employees chased after her, telling her he wanted to buy the watch, but Lewis didn’t want to sell it.
“He said they looked plastic and told them they were not interested,” the police report said. So Lewis offered $1,000, which they accepted.
Later, when detectives searched Faulkner’s SUV, they found two watches, a Greubel Forsey, model 14, and a Panerai, PAM 767, T005/11, Tourbillon.
Another detective wrote that two more Panerai watches and an Audemars Piguet also had been recovered, with miscellaneous jewelry and baseball cards, credit cards and identification cards that did not belong to Falcone.
On top of the burglary and conspiracy charges, Lewis could face several years in prison as a habitual criminal.
Authorities said there is one way he could minimize his time behind bars: help them unearth the treasure that could be buried anywhere under the dirt on which he once slept.
But when a detective suggested just that, “Lewis denied stealing or selling any watches or even knowing where they were at.” The detective pressed him further, saying investigators had video surveillance of him at the storage facility, with his fingerprints on the units from the day of the burglary.
“I asked him who had the watches,” the detective wrote, “and he told me to talk with Ornelas.”
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Post time: May-14-2019