Manhattan U.S. Attorney And FBI Assistant Director-In-Charge Announce Arrest Of Former Vice President Of High-End Jewelry Company For Stealing Over $1 Million Of Jewelry
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), today announced the arrest of INGRID LEDERHAAS-OKUN, a former Vice President of Product Development at a high-end jewelry company, for stealing over $1.3 million worth of jewelry from her former employer. LEDERHAAS-OKUN was arrested this morning at her residence in Darien, Connecticut, and will be presented in Manhattan federal court later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun went from a Vice President at a high-end jewelry company to jewel thief. She abused her access to valuable jewelry in order to steal and then resell over one million dollars’ worth of items that she falsely represented as her own, as the complaint describes. Her arrest shows that no matter how privileged their position in a company, employees who steal will face the full consequences of the law.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos said: “As alleged, Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun took advantage of the access her employment afforded her to expensive jewelry. She allegedly stole numerous items, sold them for over a million dollars, then engaged in a series of lies in an attempt to cover up the theft. A privileged position in a prestigious company does not insulate a thief from arrest and prosecution.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
From at least January 2011 until February 2013, LEDERHAAS-OKUN worked as a Vice President of Product Development at the midtown Manhattan headquarters of one of the world’s premier high-end jewelers (the “Jewelry Company”). Her duties and responsibilities included ensuring that product designs could be manufactured and, to that end, she had authority to check out jewelry belonging to the Jewelry Company for work-related reasons, such as to provide the jewelry to potential manufacturers to determine the cost of production.
Between November 2012 and February 2013, LEDERHAAS-OKUN abused her position and authority at the Jewelry Company to check out over 165 pieces of jewelry with a retail value of over $1.2 million, including numerous diamond bracelets, platinum or gold diamond drop and hoop earrings, platinum diamond rings, and platinum and diamond pendants. She then sold some if not all of this jewelry for $1.3 million to another company, a leading international buyer and reseller of jewelry with an office in midtown Manhattan (the “Jewelry Reseller”). The Jewelry Reseller paid for the merchandise that LEDERHAAS-OKUN had stolen either by paying her or her husband, in transactions arranged either by LEDERHAAS-OKUN or a friend working on her behalf.
In addition to this jewelry, in November 2012, following an announcement by the Jewelry Company that it was going to undertake a full physical inventory review, LEDERHAAS-OKUN also reported that approximately $1.5 million worth of jewelry which she had checked out would have to be written off. However, none of that jewelry was ever returned to the Jewelry Company, contrary to the usual practice of accounting for inventory, such as damaged jewelry, that would have to be written off because it had been rendered unusable in some way.
To conceal her theft, LEDERHAAS-OKUN made repeated false statements to the Jewelry Company. For example, after her termination in February 2013, she told the Jewelry Company that she had only recently checked out the missing jewelry in anticipation of creating a PowerPoint presentation for her supervisor, and that a draft of the presentation could be found on her office computer. However, the missing pieces of jewelry had been checked out months earlier, her supervisor was unaware of any such presentation being worked on by LEDERHAAS-OKUN, and there was no draft presentation on her computer. In addition, LEDERHAAS-OKUN claimed the jewelry in question could be found in a white envelope in her office, but a search of her office shortly after her departure did not yield any white envelope.
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LEDERHAAS-OKUN, 46, of Darien, Connecticut, is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI. Mr. Bharara also noted the investigation is ongoing.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Rosemary Nidiry is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.