Unfortunately last fall at CJCI Convention 2013 in Rhode Island, several of our attendees reported having jewelry stolen either from their hotel rooms on Friday evening or during our show and sale on Saturday. After numerous conversations with the victims of these thefts, several turns of events, and police investigations, we have some news to share with you in several parts.
This was one of the most costly pieces taken, and we know it disappeared during the Saturday show. A mermaid matching detailed photos that were taken of the piece prior to the theft was sold on eBay during the week after the convention. The buyer was the original owner of the brooch, so she now has the stolen property back in her possession.
The eBay seller lives in New Hampshire, and during police interrogation she has stated that she purchased the piece from a random male in a parking lot through a transaction initiated on Craigslist.com. Since the piece was resold just days after it was stolen, it’s not likely that the piece changed hands a number of times prior to being offered to the seller. However, the eBay seller was not present at the convention so she indeed obtained if from a third party. The owner of the brooch is now contemplating her options, including further FBI-related investigation through private parties.
This piece was definitely taken during Friday night room-to-room shopping at the hotel. The owner of the brooch knows who was in her room immediately prior to the brooch going missing, and has reported the identity of those individuals to us. She unfortunately did not see the actual theft take place to pinpoint which of these people pocketed the piece.
Surprisingly, in a very odd turn of events, a similar Coro brooch was anonymously sent via U.S. mail to Pam Wiggins. Pam in turn forwarded it to the theft victim, but she immediately recognized that it was not the stolen brooch but rather one in that style with a different Coro mark. Detailed notes regarding her brooch were taken during a conversation with a jewelry expert just prior to the theft, so she is certain about this assessment. The victim was happy to get a similar brooch back as compensation, but we do not know if it was the thief who mailed a similar item or just a Good Samaritan trying to help out.
After speaking with all the theft victims and another Saturday show vendor who had a very suspicious interaction take place at her sale table, we have narrowed down the suspects. We are sorry to say, as we first reported during the event, that these are convention attendees. We’re not sure if they were working together or independently, but they appear to have been going from room to room together on Friday night, and table to table on Saturday in many instances.
The Eisenberg mermaid was recovered and a Coro brooch was returned to us as noted above, but there are still at least six items that were stolen over the weekend from various individuals that have not been returned.Five of them are illustrated in this email: Coro Angel Fish Jelly Belly Duette, Trifari Diane Love Okame brooch, Trifari sterling blue fruit salad set, Trifari crown pin, and Coro Duette with jeweled bugs. A Boucher enameled peacock brooch was also documented as stolen. A number of those items were definitely taken on Friday night, and no one other than convention attendees had entered the hotel rooms of the sellers. It appears that the thief (or thieves if they were working together) has a fondness for 1940s Coro, Trifari sterling, and Boucher enamels based on the reports from the victims, some of which were veteran convention attendees and others were first-timers.
The suspects are jewelry dealers and they do sell online. Many eyes are watching them, and if they attempt to sell the additional goods they pilfered, photos showing minute nuances are available to identify most of the items taken. It would be wise to forward the additional items either to Pam or Melinda so they can be returned to their rightful owners rather than offering them for sale and risking prosecution.
We also realize that one of the suspects may have been implicated by association. We will have no way of knowing who actually took the jewelry unless the guilty party steps forward to clear suspicion of the person who was closely associated with them at the convention.
Fortunately the victims of these crimes did not let the incidents ruin their fun weekend with friends, and they plan to join us in Chicago in October, 2014 if at all possible. They were, however, disheartened and deeply saddened that their trust was betrayed by a fellow jewelry lover who took advantage of them in one of the worst ways possible. This was a low blow for everyone who has attended jewelry conventions in the past in the spirit of friendship and trust, and quite an insult to Pam and Melinda as the organizers of the event who welcomed these people wholeheartedly as part of the group.
The cost of these thefts has been high. The sum spent to purchase the stolen Eisenberg mermaid was not insignificant, and the other pieces stolen ranged in value from $100 to several hundred apiece. Everyone involved has also spent countless hours in time discussing and investigating what went on during the event. Pam and Melinda have both devoted hours and hours in conversation with theft victims, exchanging emails, and assisting law enforcement during the weeks after the event. The greatest “cost” to them both, however, was the trust in their attendees that has been diminished.
As a result, everyone will be instructed to treat room shopping and our shows at future events just as they would for an open-to-the-public situation where thieves may be present. We will also be forced to employ security guards and plain clothed shoppers to watch buyers during our Saturday sale events. This will result in extra costs that all attendees will, unfortunately, have to absorb.
Going forward we will also be reserving the right to refuse convention registration to individuals we deem to be a threat or risk of menace at our events, and we will be exercising this right at our discretion to do our best to preserve the integrity of CJCI events.
Despite these unfortunate circumstances, everything else about the event was an amazing success, and we look forward to seeing all of you at our next conference!
Melinda & Pam
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