THE GREAT TIFFANY CAPER

How an executive almost got away with more than a million in precious gems

By Eric Spitznagel

ILLUSTRATION BY DAN WOODGER

An executive at Tiffany allegedly stole $1.3 million worth of jewelry from the company. What was her method?

Slow and steady. Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, 46, worked as vice president of product development at the jeweler’s midtown Manhattan headquarters from January 2011 to February of this year, when her position was terminated because of downsizing. The FBI claims that between November 2012 and her dismissal, 165 pieces of jewelry went missing, including “diamond bracelets, platinum or gold diamond drop and hoop earrings, platinum diamond rings, and platinum and diamond pendants.” Lederhaas-Okun, authorities say, would check out the jewelry for professional reasons — marketing purposes, showing potential buyers — and then not return them.

Why didn’t anyone notice?

“She only kept items that were valued at under $10,000,” says Scott Selby, co-author of Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History, about the 2003 theft from the Antwerp Diamond Centre, valued at more than $100 million. “Tiffany’s has a policy of only investigating missing inventory that’s valued over $25,000.” Lederhaas-Okun, whose lawyer won’t comment on the case, has since been charged by the FBI with wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property and faces as many as 30 years in prison if convicted. Carson Glover, a spokesman for Tiffany, says the company is “not in a position to comment at this time.”

What did she do with the loot?

According to the feds, she sold the merchandise to an unnamed “leading international buyer and reseller of jewelry with an office in midtown Manhattan.” Ice-T (Tracy Marrow), the long-time rapper, actor, and former professional jewel thief, suspects that Lederhaas-Okun may have had a buyer in advance. “When you steal things in that kind of quantity, that’s what we call consignment theft,” he says. “You don’t just put it on the fence and hope somebody picks it up. Everything is bought and paid for long before you steal it.”

Selby says Lederhaas-Okun may have instead utilized an auction house such as Christie’s or Sotheby’s. “If you show up at Christie’s with a Grecian vase worth $2 million, and you’re in a nice suit, and you give them an address that’s in Connecticut, they won’t ask any questions,” he says. Neither Christie’s nor Sotheby’s responded to requests for comment.

How did Lederhaas-Okun get caught?

Tiffany discovered the jewelry was missing when it conducted a company-wide inventory review, and e-mails between Lederhaas-Okun and the unnamed jewelry reseller were found on her computer. At first, Lederhaas-Okun claimed all jewelry had been checked out for a PowerPoint presentation for her supervisor. (The supervisor denied this.) Lederhaas-Okun later said the missing jewels could be found, according to the feds, “in a white envelope in her office.” Searches turned up nothing.

Chris McGoey, a security adviser in Los Angeles, says other employees at Tiffany may have had suspicions. “I guarantee you that a company like Tiffany has checks and balances,” he says. “But it didn’t apply to [Lederhaas-Okun].” Even if they had concerns about why the jewelry she was checking out wasn’t being returned, he says, they might’ve been reluctant to raise any red flags. “Nobody wants to rat out their boss.”

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