A Long Island food pantry director has been arrested for allegedly telling consumers the knock-off jewelry she bought online from China was “factory seconds” donated to her charity by Tiffany & Co., the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office announced Dec. 22.
“Tiffany and Company … does not sell “factory seconds,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota in a statement.
Mary Ann Bell, 69, director of the Greater Port Jefferson Food Pantry in Port Jefferson, N.Y., is charged with selling the fake pieces at nursing homes and hospitals. She allegedly pocketed $150,000 annually from her scheme, which the D.A. said goes back three years. Most of the items were said to come in replicas of Tiffany’s famed “blue box,” although in some instances the boxes looked green.
“The jewelry was marked as Tiffany and the logo and the stamp was fake,” explains a spokesperson from the D.A.’s office, who did not want to give her name. “The boxes were [often] discolored. Some of them close, but some of them were not.”
And while Bell generally charged $40 a pop for the items, she now admits she only paid five dollars for them, the DA said.
The spokesperson said the reported ruse fell apart when unhappy consumers began bringing the fake jewels to Tiffany stores, complaining of inferior quality. The retailer then tipped off police.
According to Port Jefferson Patch, Tiffany considers the counterfeiting operation “very significant,” with the DA reporting that Bell’s home contained $600,000 worth of fake merchandise.
In a statement released to the Suffolk District Attorney, Tiffany said “it takes anti-counterfeiting enforcement and the protection of consumer interests seriously and wholly supports the District Attorney’s pursuit of such common goals.”
Spotta added that Bell has “fully acknowledged her complicity in this scheme.”
Bell is charged with trademark counterfeiting in the second degree, a crime punishable by a maximum one and one-third to four years in prison. Her arraignment is Feb. 1.
Bell’s position as a food pantry director makes her an unusual alleged criminal. Even stranger, according to the New York Post, is that Bell is also a retired political science professor from SUNY Stony Brook.