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Ex-Tiffany exec from Darien sentenced to year in prison

Staff Report

A Darien woman who used her position as an executive at Tiffany & Co. to steal $1.3 million worth of jewelry, was sentenced to a year and one day in prison Friday, Dec. 20.

Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, 47, of 1 Timber Lane, was also sentenced to one year of supervised release and was ordered to forfeit $2,114,873 and to pay $2,239,873 in restitution to Tiffany.

The FBI arrested Lederhass-Okun July 2 on one count of wire fraud and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property. The charges carried a maximum sentence of 30 years.

Lederhaas-Okun, who was employed by Tiffany since 1991, pleaded guilty July 26 to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property. Her lawyer asked for a six-month sentence while the government sought at least three years.

"This was not a crime of impulse," U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe said. "The defendant made many bad decisions over many years."

As a vice president of the iconic store, Lederhaas-Okun had privileges to "check out" pieces of jewelry from her employer, but instead of returning them, she sold them, federal authorities said following her arrest.

Lederhaas-Okun, checked out more than 165 diamond bracelets, platinum or gold diamond drop and hoop earrings, platinum diamond rings, and platinum and diamond pendants between November 2012 and February 2013, according to a release from the FBI.

She then sold some, if not all, of it for $1.3 million to a leading international jewelry reseller that has an office in midtown Manhattan, according to the release. The payments went to her, or her husband, and she had a friend conduct some of the transactions.

When confronted about the missing jewelry, Lederhaas-Okun claimed that she had left some of it behind at Tiffany and that some had been lost or damaged, according to a criminal complaint. But an investigation found that Lederhaas-Okun resold some of the goods to an unidentified international dealer for more than $1.3 million. Other items were found in her home.

Bank records showed that since January 2011, the dealer wrote 75 checks to her or her husband for amounts of up to $47,400, the complaint said. Investigators also recovered purchase forms signed by Lederhaas-Okun that said the items were her personal property.

Authorities alleged Lederhaas-Okun purposely checked out items valued at under $10,000 apiece to avoid detection. The company takes a daily inventory of all checked-out items worth more than $25,000.

"I'm very sorry for everything that's happened," a tearful Lederhaas-Okun told the judge before hearing the sentence in federal court in New York City. "I can't express my remorse enough."

Gardephe rejected prosecutors' arguments that the defendant was motivated by greed, noting that she came from a privileged background, made $360,000 a year at Tiffany and lived in a $4 million house in Darien. Her attorney claimed that she suffered from depression and cracked under the pressures of not being able to have children, getting passed over for a promotion at Tiffany and seeing her marriage crumble. Read Full Article 

But Gardephe said it was impossible to know what set Lederhaas-Okun on a path of "self-destruction which could only have one outcome -- disaster." He also said she deserved more than six months because of how long the thefts went on and the fact that she tried to resell some of the jewelry.

"Her arrest shows that no matter how privileged their position in a company, employees who steal will face the full consequences of the law," Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a release.

Lederhaas-Okun, who could not be reached for comment, is expected to voluntarily report to prison on March 24, according to a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York spokesman.

Staff Writer Megan Spicer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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