Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, the former Tiffany vice president of product and design who admitted to pilfering $1 million in jewelry from her onetime employer, was sentenced to a year and a day in jail by a federal judge on Dec. 23, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Lederhaas-Okun, who spent two decades at the famed retailer, admitted to “checking out” some 165 pieces of jewelry with a retail value of $1.2 million—including numerous diamond bracelets, platinum or gold diamond drop and hoop earrings, platinum diamond rings, and platinum and diamond pendants—and then not returning them. Much of this merchandise was eventually sold for $1.3 million to a Manhattan reseller.
Many items, authorities say, were valued at less than $10,000 to avoid detection, since Tiffany takes a daily tally of checked-out items priced at more than $25,000.
Getting sentenced to a year a day gives Lederhaas-Okun a chance at parole before the sentence is finished. Still, the sentence is stiffer than the six months the defense asked for and far below the three years requested by the prosecution.
In a victim-impact statement filed with the court, Tiffany & Co.’s counsel called Lederhaas-Okun’s actions “sad and disturbing,” saying they caused the retailer “significant harm.” She “inflicted a blow to Tiffany’s reputation as a place of integrity with employees who are above reproach,” the filing added, “[and] tore at the fabric of ethical conduct which Tiffany has so carefully cultivated.”
Lederhaas-Okun, who lived an apparently comfortable lifestyle with a $4 million home in Darien, Conn., filed a statement saying she was still coming to terms with her actions.
“I am a 46-, almost 47-, year-old woman,” she wrote. “I have never so much as had a parking ticket. I know I brought this upon myself, and I struggle every single day to try and figure out why. Truthfully, I cannot fully explain nor fully comprehend what led me to do such a corrupt thing for so long.”
A psychological evaluation that accompanied her statement said that Lederhaas-Okun has suffered from untreated depression, stemming, in part, from her inability to have a child.
A 2008 JCK article, To Catch an Internal Thief, noted that stealing from employers is often unrelated to economic issues but done compulsively for an “adrenaline boost.”
“Dishonest employees aren’t just the kid in the mail room who comes in for shipping and receiving,” said one expert. “Sometimes it’s done by long-term employees who are approaching retirement and are disgruntled because they don’t feel they are compensated at the ratio they have contributed to the business.”