How medical marijuana and a big safe brought Miami burglary crew to the suburbs

What were Florida jewelry thieves up to last week when they got busted by federal authorities who say they cased several businesses in the Northwest suburbs?

The answer involves a Mount Prospect medical marijuana dispensary, a safe with $700,000 cash, plans for a complicated, high-tech heist, and an FBI informant who helped blow it all up.

That’s the narrative laid out in federal court documents filed May 18 leading to the arrests of Matthew Petruccelli, 66, and Michael Clarence Ornelas, 54. Court records show the duo from suburban Miami was taken into custody last Saturday in Illinois on charges of conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce.

It all started back in January, when an informant approached the FBI in Palm Beach County with an extraordinary tale. The informant claimed he, Petruccelli and Ornelas were a sophisticated crew that had been operating in the Sunshine State since 2012, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit.

The crew targeted jewelry stores in central and northern Florida, according to the affidavit, until Ornelas’ day job — as a locksmith and safe installer — received a call that would turn their sights on Chicago’s suburbs.

They’ll never suspect him

That call, the informant told the FBI, came from the owner of several medical marijuana dispensaries looking for a safe large enough to hold $700,000 in $20 bills. “Ornelas thought this would be a good target because the business owner would never suspect him,” the FBI agent wrote.

Over the next several weeks, the informant recorded himself, Petruccelli and Ornelas meticulously planning break-ins at Chicago-area marijuana dispensaries and jewelry stores, court documents state. Among their targets: New Age Care, a dispensary in Mount Prospect; the Greenhouse dispensary in Deerfield; CY Fredrics jewelry stores in Glenview and Highland Park; and AM Lee

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