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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Former Tiffany VP Pleads Guilty to Stealing $2.1 Million of Jewelry

Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun

A former VP of Product Development at Tiffany & Co., pled guilty Friday in Manhattan federal court to stealing over $2.1 million worth of jewelry from her former employer.

Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, 46, of Darien, Conn., 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, she agreed to forfeit more than $2.1 million and further agreed to make restitution in the amount of more than $2.2 million, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.

She was arrested earlier this month and pled guilty Friday before U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe. She is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Gardephe on December 10.

“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,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Friday. Today, she stands convicted for her thievery and faces the prospect of prison.”

From at least January 2011 until February 2013, Lederhaas-Okun worked as a VP of Product Development at Tiffany’s midtown Manhattan headquarters, according to court documents. Her duties and responsibilities included ensuring that product designs could be manufactured. She had authority to check out jewelry belonging to Tiffany for work-related reasons.

Between November 2012 and February 2013, Lederhaas-Okun checked out more than 165 pieces of jewelry with a retail value of more than $1.2 million, including numerous diamond bracelets, platinum or gold diamond drop and hoop earrings, platinum diamond rings, and platinum and diamond pendants,” according to court documents. She then sold some if not all of this jewelry for $1.3 million to an unnamed international buyer and reseller of jewelry in midtown Manhattan. The jewelry reseller paid for the stolen merchandise by paying Lederhaas-Okun or her husband, in transactions arranged either by her or a friend working on her behalf.

It is unclear whether this reseller knew the jewelry was stolen.

In addition, on November 2012, following an announcement by Tiffany that it was going to undertake a full physical inventory review, Lederhaas-Okun said that approximately $1.5 million worth of jewelry which she had checked out would have to be written off, according to court documents. However, none of that jewelry was ever returned to Tiffany, 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 Tiffany. For example, after her termination in February 2013, she told the luxury jeweler that she had recently checked out jewelry to create 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 and there was no draft presentation on her computer. In addition, she claimed the jewelry 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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