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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jewelry Theft: The Inside Job at Tiffany & Company

     On July 1, 2013, at 8:45 PM, three men walked into the jewelry store inside the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City, smashed a glass jewelry display case, scooped up $200,000 in Rolex watches, then ran out of the hotel. As of this writing the thieves have not been identified.

     While the Atlantic City smash-and-grab theft is considered a fairly big haul, it is nothing compared to what a jewelry thief working from the inside can steal.

     On Tuesday, July 2, the day after the Borgata Hotel smash-and-grab, FBI agents arrested Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun at her fancy home in Darien, Connecticut. A federal prosecutor had charged the 46-year-old vice president in charge of product development at the Tiffany flagship location on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue with stealing $1.3 million worth of jewelry from the famed store.

     FBI agents working the case believe that between November 2012 and February 2013, the executive had checked out more than 165 pieces of jewelry that were not returned to the store. The missing merchandise included diamond bracelets, platinum and gold diamond drop and loop earrings, platinum and diamond rings, and platinum and diamond pendants. Lederhaas-Okun stands accused of selling the checked-out pieces of jewelry to another company. Federal investigators believe the suspect used her husband and a friend as sales intermediaries.

     Last February, after Tiffany & Company auditors couldn't find the 165-plus pieces of merchandise in the store's inventory, the firm fired Lederhaas-Okun. She had held the position of vice president since January of 2011. Lederhaas-Okum began working for the company in 1991 following her graduation from Georgetown University.

      Ledherhass-Okun's husband has not been charged in connection with the case. She has pleaded not guilty to the jewelry theft charge.

     In terms of stolen merchandise and cash, retailers are hit the hardest by employee thieves who steal three times more than shoplifters and robbers combined. Quite often the most trusted and longtime employees are the thieves who do the most damage. Most of them are eventually caught. A few of these so-called internal thieves avoid prosecution by agreeing to pay restitution. Occasionally, a retailer will decline to prosecute a dishonest employee because such an action would create unwanted publicity. Most of the time, however, inside retail thieves who have stolen large amounts of cash or merchandise end up in prison.

     It's hard to understand why a trusted, high-paid executive would risk everything by stealing from his or her employer. Some prominent, high-end thieves steal because they are living beyond their means, have large medical expenses, are compulsive gamblers, or addicted to drugs. Some employees simply enjoy the thrill of enriching themselves at the expense of their employers. Forget the Robin Hood Syndrome, rich people often steal from other rich people. 

1 comment:

  1. there's another reason they steal, some think they are smarter than everyone else.

    ReplyDelete