[New York Daily News]
Prosecutors say employee Teresa Tambunting took 500 pounds of gold from a Queens jewelry manufacturer to her Scarsdale home.
What a gold digger!
A larcenous longtime employee of a major Queens jewelry manufacturer walked off with a staggering 500 pounds of gold she smuggled out piece by piece over six years — in her handbag, prosecutors said yesterday.
Teresa Tambunting, 50, of Scarsdale New York sneaked the hoard out of a Long Island City vault by stashing “a few ounces” at a time in a false bottom she created in the lining of her pocketbook, authorities said.
“I am a very sick woman. I took the gold,” she told her stunned bosses once the jig was up, according to sources.
Officials at Jacmel Jewelry caught on that they were being bled dry after doing an internal audit in January and noticing they were missing as much as $12 million worth of gold, which now trades for around $900 an ounce.
“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,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
Tambunting had worked for Jacmel for 28 years, joining the company shortly after emigrating from the Philippines, and had been made a vault manager in 1991. She was paid $160,000 a year and was one of only a handful of “highly trusted” employees who had access to the company’s safe, sources said.
But even those people were subject to searches by security — which Tambunting got around with the makeshift hole in beaten-up black leather, banana-shaped purse she carried for years.
A few days after company officials started going over their books to see if they had made an accounting error, Tambunting walked into work wheeling a piece of luggage containing 60 pounds of “fine gold” — or buck-shot-sized pellets of unrefined precious metal.
When asked if that was all she had taken, she said yes, but days later, she changed her tune and came in with her lawyer –and a couple of dozen five-gallon paint buckets filled with 447.8 pounds of gold necklaces, rings, earrings and other jewelry. There was enough gold to fill 12 large storage bins. The size of Tambunting’s haul stunned employees.
“When they walked in the first time, they were shocked and their jaws dropped,” a source said. “When she came back three weeks later, their jaws dropped even heavier.”
The stash took company officials nearly three weeks to inventory. During that period, they discovered some pieces that dated back to early 2004. Then they went to the District Attorney.
In all, the value of the returned gold is roughly $7.3 million, meaning $4.7 million remains missing. Some of that, sources said, could have been lost in routine manufacturing processes.
They said Tambunting and her husband, Edgardo, a director at Cantor Fitzgerald, appeared to be living within their means, but probers were still investigating their finances. The couple lives with their three children in a million-dollar home.
Jacmel Jewelry President Jack Rahmey called Tambunting “a long time employee and a trusted one,” but declined to comment any further.
She was released Tuesday on $100,000 bail. She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. Her lawyer did not return messages.
Officials say as much as $12 million worth of gold — which trades at roughly $900 a troy ounce — disappeared. With a single gold bar weighing 400 troy ounces, or 27 pounds, that’s the equivalent of 833 pounds of gold, or just shy of 31 gold bars.
“They’re different from the rest of the neighborhood. You don’t see them around. They stick to themselves,” neighbour Marsha Kalisch said Tambunting was released Tuesday on $100,000 bail. Her attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday. Prosecutors are investigating what she planned to do with the jewelry.