A Grover Beach security company is accused not only of installing a "worthless" alarm system in a Cambria jewelry store shortly before a burglary cost the shop up to $47,000, but the store's owners say the company was behind it — and other burglaries.
Last week, San Simeon attorney Wiley Ramey filed a lawsuit in San Luis Obispo Superior Court alleging that Sentinel Security Solutions, Inc. installed a camera and motion detector system at Cambria Jewelry & Gems on Main Street weeks before the break-in, and a representative for the company attempted to erase footage capturing the burglars afterwords.
Ramey on Wednesday declined to comment on the lawsuit or provide information on other burglaries.
Lawsuits only represent one side of the story, and attorneys for Sentinel have not yet filed responses in court. The company's website was offline Wednesday and calls to Sentinel's owner, Justin Sherbon, were not returned.
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According to the lawsuit, Sentinel Security Solutions installed a camera and motion detector system in the Cambria business in January 2017. However, the store's owner says Sentinel did not set it at "a usable level of detection," but rather negligently installed it on factory settings.
"The alarm system would therefore not detect a break-in through the front door in a timely manner," the lawsuit reads.
The Cambria shop is also accusing the company of gross negligence by arming the alarm system with battery powered wireless alarms "which were located in a way they would not trigger when the front door was breached."
That's what happened May 15, 2017, when two men broke through the shop's glass front door with a blunt object and shattered several glass cases containing jewelry, which they stole before leaving the scene. The lawsuit alleges the burglars were inside the store for more than a minute without tripping the alarm.
Beyond the Cambria shop's losses — which owner Glenn Grego said came to $47,000 — the lawsuit alleges that Sentinel was in on the burglary and likely others.
"(The burglars) were knowing participants in a scheme in which employees and/or acquaintances of the Defendant Sentinel Security Systems, Inc. were made aware of the installation of the alarm system at which point they would target the business for burglary knowing the alarm system would not trigger," the complaint reads. "... (This) same type of scheme or modus operandi has occurred throughout the county in which this same defendant installs an alarm system after which a break in occurs within a matter of weeks."
The lawsuit alleges that on the morning of the burglary, as a Sheriff's Office deputy was interviewing the store owner, a Sentinel employee arrived and destroyed the security camera footage that had captured images of the burglars inside the store. The complaint states that the owner had luckily recorded the cameras' footage on his own cell phone.
Sheriff's Office spokesman Tony Cipolla confirmed Tuesday that a deputy arrived to the scene of the burglary after a person walking by observed the broken glass and reported the break-in. Cipolla confirmed the alarm did not activate during the burglary.
"We do not know whose fault it was but obviously the alarm was not set in a proper manner that failed to detect the intruders when they broke the glass door and entered the store," Cipolla wrote in an email.
Cipolla said that a Sheriff's Office commander in charge of the investigation said the deputy documented roughly $18,000 in losses in the burglary, and the Sheriff's Office is not aware of any evidence of collusion or conspiracy between the alarm company and the still-at-large burglars.
Cambria Jewelry & Gem is claiming breach of implied warranty, breach of contract, gross negligence and conspiracy to commit burglary. They're seeking an unspecified amount of general and punitive damages as well as recovery of attorneys fees.
Sentinel Security has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 2009, according to the consumer advocacy group.
A case management conference for the lawsuit is scheduled for July 23 in San Luis Obsipo Superior Court.