Queens Jeweler Victim of Mega-Larceny One Piece at a Time
by Jeffrey Harmatz
May 06, 2009 | 876 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sometimes an act of thievery is so epic that it transcends even grand larceny and becomes "mega larceny."

One Long Island woman was charged with this mega-heinous crime last week after stealing more than $12 million in gold from her employer over the last six years. And like the Johnny Cash classic, "One Piece at a Time," in which the narrator steals an entire car from his job at an auto assembling plant by taking a small piece at a time and assembling the final product at his home, the mega-scale mega-offense was carried out by way of perhaps the simplest method of smuggling.

Teresa Tambunting, 50, of Scarsdale, was arrested and charged last week for the mega-crime after gold was found to be missing by employees at the Long Island City-based Jacmel Jewelry. According to the charges, Tambunting had been taking small pieces of gold out of the company's headquarters by putting them into a small slit cut into her pocketbook. Beginning in 2004, she was able to smuggle out small pieces of jewelry and gold through this method until she had accumulated a mega-obscene amount of wealth totaling almost $12 million.

While other crooks may have stopped grabbing pieces after $3, $5, or even $10 million, Tambunting continued to pilfer gold until April 28, at which point her employers conducted a physical stock inventory in January and discovered the missing gold. After an investigation into the missing jewelry was launched, Tambunting arrived at the office carrying a suitcase with a mega-stash of 66 pounds of gold, worth almost $900,000.

A search of the woman's home turned up an additional 500 pounds of gold.

On Tuesday, Tambunting was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court and charged with first-degree grand larceny and first-degree criminal possession of stolen property. Tambunting was released on $100,000 bail and will return to court on May 19. She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, who coined the term "mega-larceny" to describe Tambunting's crimes, issued a statement about the case, saying, "with gold trading at nearly $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 from her employer."

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