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Employee accused of stealing up to $12 million in gold

  • Story Highlights
  • Vault manager worked for Jacmel Jewelry for 28 years
  • Authorities say she confessed to hiding gold in her purse
  • District attorney says she's returned about $7 million in gold
  • She could get 25 years in prison if convicted
By Edmund DeMarche
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A longtime employee and vault manager for a jewelry company in Long Island City, New York, stole millions of dollars worth of gold and gold jewelry from her employer over a six-year span, the Queens district attorney has alleged.

Teresa Tambunting, 50, of Scarsdale, New York, is accused of stealing as much as $12 million from Jacmel Jewelry, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement Wednesday.

At an arraignment Wednesday, she did not enter a plea to charges of first-degree grand larceny and first-degree criminal possession of stolen property, the district attorney's office said. She was released on $100,000 bail and will return to court May 19, the office said.

Her attorney, David Kirby, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Tambunting, who worked for Jacmel for 28 years, has returned about $7 million worth of gold, but $4 million remains missing, according to Brown.

"The defendant is accused of establishing a virtual mining operation in Long Island City which siphoned off millions of dollars' worth of the precious metal from her employer," Brown said.

Police say Tambunting -- whose job responsibilities involved monitoring the vault in which fine gold, finished products and raw materials were stored -- confessed that for several months last year, she hid gold in makeshift slits in her purse.

An inventory in January revealed that as much as $12 million in merchandise was missing, Brown said in the written statement. After an investigation, Tambunting arrived at the jewelry company's offices wheeling a suitcase containing about 66 pounds of gold, an estimated $868,000, the district attorney's office said. In February, about 450 pounds of gold was taken from her residence, the office said.

Tambunting became vault manager in 1991, the office said. The dates of the alleged thefts were not immediately clear.

The value of the gold returned fluctuates because of the rise and fall of gold prices. However, the charges are based on what Jacmel claims it lost: $3 to $12 million, according to the Queens district attorney.

Jewelry manufacturer owners often find themselves in precarious circumstances when protecting their companies from thievery, said Benjamin Mark, who owned a jewelry manufacturing company in New York for 20 years.

"Unless you have metal detectors where every single employee removes their shoes and belts, you can't be certain," said Mark, who now operates a one-man business. "Stealing jewelry is relatively simple."

Jacmel Jewelry is one of the country's largest manufacturers and distributors of popular price jewelry, according to its Web site.

It employs more than 1,000 people worldwide, according to its president, Jack Rahmey. Rahmey said he is cooperating with authorities.

Tambunting faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

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