National Jeweler Network

Market Developments

Investigation ongoing in Tiffany theft case

2013-08-01

New York--The former Tiffany & Co. vice president accused of stealing millions in jewelry will face a judge for sentencing in December while the investigation into the case, which also involves an unnamed jewelry company, the defendant’s husband and friend, continues. 

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. According to the plea deal, however, both sides have agreed to a sentence of three to four years in prison.

Lederhaas-Okun also agreed to forfeit $2.1 million and to make restitution in the amount of $2.2 million.

The 46-year-old Darien, Conn. resident originally also faced a charge of wire fraud, which could have landed her in jail for up to 20 years, but the government dropped that count as part of the deal.

Sentencing is set for Dec. 10.

According to prosecutors, Lederhaas-Okun worked at Tiffany’s New York headquarters as a vice president of product development between January 2011 and February of this year, when she was let go because of downsizing. During that time, she had the ability to “check out” jewelry so she could, for example, takes pieces to manufacturers to make sure they were feasible for production.

Between November 2012 and February, prosecutors allege that Lederhaas-Okun checked out more than 165 pieces of Tiffany jewelry worth more than $1.2 million, a haul that included numerous diamond bracelets, drop earrings in gold and platinum and platinum-and-diamond rings and pendants.

She then resold some, if not all, of this jewelry to a New York-based international buyer and reseller of jewelry for $1.3 million. That company paid her or her husband for the jewelry in transactions arranged by either Lederhaas-Okun or a friend working on her behalf.

After she lost her job in February, prosecutors said that Lederhaas-Okun repeatedly lied about the 165 pieces of missing jewelry, telling Tiffany that she had only recently checked it out to make a PowerPoint presentation for her boss or that the jewelry could be found in a white envelope in her office. Neither a draft of the presentation nor the white envelope was ever found.

The $1.2 million in jewels she stole and resold is not the end of the story. in November 2012, right around the time Tiffany announced it was going to conduct a full, physical inventory review, Lederhaas-Okun reported that about $1.5 million in jewelry would have to be “written off,” a term used at Tiffany to refer to pieces that have been rendered unusable in some way.

None of that jewelry ever was returned to the company. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office was unable to provide further information on the fate of the $1.5 million in jewelry.