Ingrid Lederhaas-Okaun was Tiffany’s vice president of product development and she is now charged with the theft ofÂ 164 pieces of Tiffany’s jewelry.Â The total value of the pieces is over $1,000,000. According to the criminal charges, Ms. Lederhaas-Okun took the pieces and then she and her husband sold them to a Manhattan buyer and seller of jewelry.Â Interestingly, Ms. Lederhaas-Oku limited her selections to items under $25,000, your basic diamond bracelets, diamond earrings, and diamond pendants.Â As the director of product development, she was permitted to check out jewelry items in order to have manufacturers determine whether they could produce the items.Â However, all items over $25,000 were accounted for each day, whereas your $5000 and $10,000 items could be checked out for days at a time and no one would notice.
When Tiffany downsized in February, Ms. Lederhaas-Okun lost her job and an inventory followed whereupon the inventory shortages were uncovered.Â The missing inventory corresponds to the inventory of the Manhattan jewelry buyer and seller.Â Coincidence? The dealer has written 75 checks to Ms. Lederhaas-Okun and her husband for amounts up to $74,500.Â Ms. Lederhaas-OkunÂ was arrested at her Connecticut home and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Some lessons on internal controls are here for the taking, as are some lessons for taking what does not belong to you.Â Felony charges do follow. And a simple lesson — you can’t check out 164 pieces of jewelry from your employer over a two-year period and not have someone notice, eventually.
For more information, see Benjamin Weiser, “Ex-Tiffany Executive Sold Stolen Jewelry, Prosecutors Say,” New York Times, July 3, 2013, p. A21.