U.S. Attorney Charges High School Teacher With Attempted Transfer Of Obscene Material And Receipt And Possession Of Child Pornography
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that INGRID LEDERHAAS-OKUN, a former Vice President of Product Development at a high-end jewelry company, pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court to stealing over $2.1 million worth of jewelry from her former employer. LEDERHAAS-OKUN was arrested earlier this month and pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Diamonds are forever but stolen diamonds are not. Over a period of years, Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, an executive at a high-end jewelry company, looted her employer’s jewelry inventory and then resold millions of dollars’ worth of the merchandise in order to enrich herself. Today, she stands convicted for her thievery and faces the prospect of prison.”
According to the Information, statements made during today’s guilty plea proceeding, and a Complaint previously unsealed 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.
LEDERHAAS-OKUN, 46, of Darien, Connecticut, pled guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. As part of her plea agreement, LEDERHAAS-OKUN also agreed to forfeit $2,114,873 and further agreed to make restitution in the amount of $2,239,873. She is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Gardephe on December 10, 2013 at 2:30 p.m.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI. 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.