NEW YORK — A former Tiffany & Co. executive was arrested Tuesday for stealing $1.3 million of jewelry from the New York-based company, and now faces up to 30 years in prison.
This story first appeared in the July 3, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Federal agents arrested Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, 46, at her Darien, Conn., home, after Tiffany accused its former employee of “checking out” and selling more than 165 pieces of jewelry with a retail value of more than $1.2 million from November 2012 to February of this year. The former vice president of product development pilfered “numerous diamond bracelets, platinum or gold diamond drop and hoop earrings, platinum diamond rings and platinum and diamond pendants,” according to Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. She was fired by Tiffany in February “as part of an overall downsizing,” court papers said.
Filed in New York federal court, the lawsuit alleges that Lederhaas-Okun sold “some if not all” of the jewelry for $1.3 million to a Midtown Manhattan-based company that buys and resells jewelry. That reseller paid for the merchandise by paying either Lederhaas-Okun’s husband or a friend working on her behalf.
Bharara pointed to more than 75 checks written by the reseller, which ranged in value from $7,525 to $47,400, and totaled $1.3 million.
Following Tiffany’s November 2012 statement that it was going to conduct an inventory review, Lederhaas-Okun, who had worked at the firm since 1991 according to her LinkedIn profile, reported roughly $1.5 million worth of jewelry that she had checked out would have to be written off, court papers said. But Tiffany claimed that none of that inventory was ever returned, “contrary to the usual practice,” such as in the case of damaged jewelry, which would have had to be written off because it had been “rendered unusable in some way.”
In order to cover her tracks, the former vice president allegedly said she had only recently checked out the missing baubles in anticipation of “creating a PowerPoint presentation for her supervisor,” but that presentation could not be found.
She also claimed the jewelry could be found in an envelope in her office, but that, too, was never found.
Lederhaas-Okun has been charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail, and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Bail was set at $250,000 to be signed by two financially responsible cosigners and secured by $25,000 in cash or property as well as the surrender of all travel documents and no new applications. Lederhaas-Okun was released on Tuesday, with all conditions to be met by July 9.