Tiffany Exec Confesses

STORY BY Emily Kirkpatrick

Published: August 11, 2013

It seems like everybody in fashion these days is breaking the law in one way or another. Could the next chic trend be being found guilty in the courtroom?

Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, the former vice president of product development at Tiffany & Co pleaded guilty on July 26 to the theft of more than two million dollars in jewelry. Under her plea agreement, she will forfeit more than $2.11 million and pay $2.24 million in restitution for the stolen diamond, platinum and gold pieces of jewelry.

As part of Lederhaas-Okun’s job she was routinely allowed to check out jewelry from Tiffany for various reasons including showing items to manufacturers for production cost estimates. From time to time, instead of bringing the items back, Lederhaas-Okun would report the items missing or damaged. She then sold some, possibly all, of the items to an unnamed reseller.

After she was let go from the company in February due to downsizing, Tiffany took inventory and found that they were missing 165 pieces that Lederhaas-Okun had checked out and never returned. The pieces had previously gone unnoticed because Ingrid cleverly took only jewelry, including bracelets, earrings, and pendants, worth under $10,000, as items worth more than $25,000 were checked daily.

Although none of court documents explicitly named Tiffany as the prosecutor, instead calling it an “international jewelry company based in midtown Manhattan,” a spokeswoman at the time of Lederhaas-Okun’s arrest on July 2 confirmed the jewelry house’s involvement in the case. The former executive’s sentencing is set for December with federal guidelines placing her sentence between thirty-seven and forty-six months.

The temptation to have more and obtain it by any means necessary has always been a driving force in the expansion of both Capitalism and the American Dream. But now, that Dream appears to have hit a fever pitch where even those at the very top of the economic hierarchy feel pressured to accumulate even more absurd levels of wealth through increasingly dubious means. At a certain point, one has to ask, when will enough be enough?

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