A group of masked thieves broke into a department store at Fashion Valley mall hours before sunrise today and stole armloads of expensive purses, resulting in a six-figure monetary loss, authorities reported.

One of the bandits shattered a glass front door at the Neiman Marcus in the 7000 block of Friars Road and entered with about 15 accomplices shortly before 3:30 a.m., according to San Diego police.

The burglars -- all of whom were dressed in dark clothing and had their faces covered -- gathered up various brand-name handbags before fleeing. They left the area in five vehicles, included a white SUV, possibly a Chevrolet Tahoe, with tinted windows and black rims; a late-model silver Ford Taurus; and three four-door sedans of unknown make and model, two of them red and the other gray.  

All of the autos had paper license plates. The losses were estimated at $100,000 to $150,000, officials said.

Anyone with information about the burglary was asked to call San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477 or contact the agency online at sdcrimestoppers.org. Tipsters may remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

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