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Suspects arrested in diamond heist

NEW YORK -- Police arrested five suspected jewel thieves Tuesday as they sat sipping champagne and counting more than $700,000 worth of diamonds stolen from a Fifth Avenue gem brokerage earlier in the day.

'That's exactly what they were having -- a party,' said police Capt. Charles Alifano, whose squad headed the investigation.

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The loot was spread across a coffee table and stashed in plastic shopping bags when police burst into the seventh-floor apartment in Manhattan at about 4 p.m. and arrested the suspects, he said.

All were charged with burglary and criminal possession of stolen property, police said.

The suspects were 'sitting around the table, counting their loot,' sipping champagne and Chivas Regal scotch and munching on fruit when police spoiled their celebration, Alifano said.

Police declined to say what led them to the suspects.

The break-in was discovered at about 12:30 a.m. when alarms sounded at the Reinhold Brothers diamond brokerage on Fifth Avenue, said officer Janice Swinney, a police spokeswoman.

It was not known how the burglars got to the building's sixth floor, where the Reinhold offices are located, she said. Once inside, they smashed through a wall into the brokerage, then used the same method to break through a wall of a walk-in vault.

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Investigators were cataloging the jewels to determine if all the stolen property was recovered, Alifano said, adding police also found burglary tools in the apartment.

The suspects all are immigrants from Yugoslavia, police said.

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