Ex-Tiffany's exec accused of stealing $1.3 million in jewelry

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 10:01am

A former vice president of product development at Tiffany & Co. is accused of stealing $1.3 million worth of jewelry from the luxury brand and selling it to an international jewelry company, an unnamed FBI representative said.

Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, 46, was arrested Tuesday. She is accused of stealing 165 pieces of jewelry, including diamond bracelets, earrings and pendants, between January 2011 and February 2013. Officials said Lederhaas-Okun abused her position to check out the pieces and write off or cancel the costs of the jewelry, later reselling the pieces falsely as her own.

According to a federal complaint, Lederhaas-Okun was terminated by Tiffany & Co. in February 2013 as a result of downsizing within the company. The day after her termination, Tiffany's conducted an inventory review and discovered the missing jewelry. Lederhaas-Okun then continued to make false statements to the company through e-mail, including that the jewelry could be found in a white envelope at her desk, officials said. A search of her office, however, did not uncover the envelope, according to a news release.

Linda Buckley, vice president for Tiffany & Co., said, "In deference to the U.S. Attorney's investigation, we are not in a position to comment at this time."

According to the complaint, the jewelry store that Lederhaas-Okun sold the jewelry to is a leading international buyer and reseller of jewelry with an office in Midtown Manhattan. More than 75 checks were made to Lederhaas-Okun and her husband, ranging from $7,525 to $47,400, the complaint said. It also states that an unnamed friend of Lederhaas-Okun assisted with the transactions.

"Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun took advantage of the access her employment afforded her to expensive jewelry." FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos said in a news release. "A privileged position in a prestigious company does not insulate a thief from arrest and prosecution."

Lederhaas-Okun is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison. She was scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.

Bail was set at $250,000 but Lederhaas-Okun was released from custody on her own signature and given a week to post bond, according to the U.S. attorney's office in New York. She was placed under travel restriction, required to surrender her passport and appointed a federal public defender for the time being.

Lederhaas-Okun's attorney, Sabrina Shroff, could not be reached for comment.

-- CNN's Elwyn Lopez and Elizabeth Landers contributed to this report.

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