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Trials for accused jewel thieves set

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More than two years after their arrest in Hernando County, the trial for the men accused of stealing millions of dollars in cash and jewelry from stores throughout the southeast is slated for the week of May 31.

In 1999, Michael Clarence Ornelas and William Anthony Granims were arrested for carrying out a string of robberies in the southeastern portion of the U.S. Both men were caught and sent to federal prison where they served short sentences.

The pair either laid low or were not caught committing similar burglaries until 2011 when law enforcement agencies in several parts of Florida reported similar heists, all carried out in the same methodical, well-planned, and professional manner as those committed by Ornelas who was one of top five safe-crackers in the world and by Granims, who owned a security service. During the heists, he disabled security systems used to target stores. Among those heists were two at Kay Jewelry stores. Ironically, Ornelas worked for that company to open a safe that store operators could not open.

The duo later took on Matthew Petrucelli as their third partner. Petrucelli owned a thrift store where some of the stolen goods were sold. He also acted as a lookout during the heists.
In 2013 and 2014 burglaries were reported in Palm Harbor, Ocala, Punta Gorda, and Lakeland.

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A group of ten robberies took place in Hernando County between 2015 and 2016. In 2017 the pair allegedly struck at Dan-Lo Jewelers on Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill where they allegedly made off with more than $1 million in jewelry and cash.

The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) collaborated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to identify goods stolen from the Hernando County heists.

In December 2019 Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis announced that Ornelas and Granims had been arrested in Hernando County on multiple charges.

The pair was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center and were freed on bond.

After nearly three years, the trials for all three of the men are slated for May 31, according to a clerk for the Hernando County Criminal Court.

“Most of the time the cases go to court together,” she said.

Conrad Juergensmeyer of the Hernando County State’s Attorney’s Office said that several witnesses await their turn to testify in the cases.

According to Juergensmeyer, the delay in scheduling the cases could be attributed to the COVID pandemic.

“I don’t know specifically because I’m not involved (in the cases), but COVID really shut us down,” he said. “We had cases pile up, and now we’re catching up.”

The cases remain pending.

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